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To lead an innovation strategy

As living beings, there’s nothing more human than adaptation to the environment. As social beings in a globalized, interconnected and volatile world, there’s nothing more complicated. “How to become an innovative company” try to show us the way to face this challenge by building FIRE companies: Flexible, Innovative, Rapid and Efficient.

After all, in a changing world we need changing companies. But not blind ones rather innovative ones, which try with process guided by continuous problem identification and incessant development of solutions to them. In that way innovation could be understood as: “invention x vision” (Bayó and Camps, 2015).

Actually, innovation is not just about the creative result. It involves important steps referring to the whole ecosystem in which the company is placed and where it wants to grow generating value for itself, as well as its costumers, suppliers, employees, and maybe further stakeholders like universities, outside the production and purchase, for the knowledge or research done in the process. The growth of the ecosystem needs time,

care and confidence and needs a change from short-term to human-centred design on the deep understanding of the consumer and its needs.

Generosity is retributed with value and vice-versa. If you generate functional, emotional, social or material value for the costumer, identifying his needs and setting yourself the challenge of solving them, the costumer generates quantitative and qualitative value for the company: “challenge x value²” (Bayó and Camps, 2015). And

it fits for all the components of the ecosystem because, apart from the external opportunities like costumer’ unsatisfied needs, there are many challenges that could be the starting point of an innovation process, either coming from external factors like a competitor’s launch or internal ones like a low productivity or disorganised structures.

Therefore, to understand the role of leadership at the innovation strategy, we have to conceive innovation as it is: a collective, holistic and risked process to provide market with valuable solutions. Let’s see step by step. As Bayó and Camps states: “innovation is a process and should therefore be managed as such” (2015). It has to be included in other processes of the company and aligned with its strategy, and must be implemented and measured following a plan. For that reason, there is the need of a leader who is able to guide the strategic innovation plan as a driving force, to support teams involved removing internal problems, to connect and communicate with people, to make decisions about the whole process and, if all that is done well, to outcrop real commitment with innovation from all the company.

The risk is always involved in the inherent novelty of innovation. There are many possible risks like the unacceptance of the solution in the market; the technical, operational, legal, financial and schedule unfeasibility of its implementation in the company; or the unfulfillment of the benefits expected for a certain budget. To add value both to customers and to the company, it has to be desirable to the costumer, as well as technologically feasible and financially profitable. Because of this, leadership is indispensable to balance risk and profit, make decisions in it, and to manage mistrust keeping the motivation of the teams and pushing away the fear of failure: “Without confidence, there is no risk and without risk, there is no innovation” (2015).

To understand the costumer well, the challenge and the risk, there is the need to generate interdisciplinary teams with holistic views. For that reason, it is important to remember that, although an innovation project is always managed, it requires openness to all the members of the ecosystem. As a collaborative process, every person involved in the organization should feel capable to innovate. Every one should feel involved, autonomous, open-minded and confident with the risk assumed, and to meet that goal it is important to be involved in every one of the stages of innovation: the reflection that focuses the strategy, the discovery and conceptual phase and the implementation one.

Bayó and Camps proposes an interactive model centred on communication to reduce the risk of uncertainty involved at the discovery stage, pretending the gradual evolution of ideas and the possibility to repeat some phases of the process and changing the order

(2015). At this stage the leader should manage the balance of divergent forces relating to the ideas that emerge from different perspectives and the convergent forces that filter them with unified criteria, usually desirability, feasibility and profit. On the other hand, the implementation phase is more formal and should be more structured to keep efficiency and budget control. In that way, Bayó and Camps present a linear model

based on the stage-gate method, where a decision-maker says “go”, “kill”, “standby” or “review” at the end of each phase of the process of implementation (2015).

What is needed at the end, more than the result of punctual innovating plans, is the reinforcement of an innovative culture driven by an empathic, curious, enthusiastic and trustful leader. Leading in innovation is not about orders or authority. It is about confidence, empathy and communication. It is about creating a flexible and diverse environment and implementing systematically the project as it has been planned at the

same time. If you want to go further in the innovation process, and maybe lead one, try with the recommended book of the month available on the Key Ingredients area!

Kènia Garcia Darnaculleta

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Jorge Rodriguez Nieto
Jorge Rodriguez Nieto
03 may 2021

The article looks great! adding a couple of images would make it super engaging!

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