June 12, 2007
News & Opinion: (4 of 7) Innovation Leadership
(from James Andrew, author of Payback)
Successful innovators manage the process – but that’s not all they do.
Companies that are best at innovation are the ones that organize to support it. That can mean many things. It means a set of demands on leadership – to take ownership of innovation, make sure there’s someone high up in the company who stays awake at night worrying about innovation, and breaks up pockets of resistance. Often, the biggest pockets of resistance are found in divisions that used to be the primary sources of growth and innovation – “dynasties” that own legacy products. Those products and divisions, however successful and however much the company is known for them, now tie up resources that could be better used elsewhere. Again – just as when they manage innovation projects for cash payback – successful innovation leaders are rational and unsentimental when it comes to breaking up legacy fiefdoms and using those resources where they can do more good.
Leadership is also required if companies are going to successfully enforce discipline on the innovation process. All the innovation-related tasks that the execs in our survey said were weak points – applying metrics, enforcing hurdles, and ruthlessly shutting down unpromising projects – are really leadership responsibilities. Project managers can contribute, but only up to a point. Innovation has organization-wide consequences, and enterprise leadership needs to take charge of it.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.