Can I really become more innovative, or at least more comfortable with innovation activities around me? Is it really possible to reverse habits, and adopt new behaviors, simply because a new year is approaching? In the spirit that it’s never too late, nor too difficult to attempt such changes, I have asked six astute observers of the role of leadership behaviors in the innovation scene to suggest one simple resolution each that could well change the way that you and I interact with innovative activities in the coming year. Most of these conversations had their origins at this year's Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna this November, and in each case the contributors were chosen because of my respect for the quality and originality of their thoughts. These are people who I love to listen to; they inspire and provoke me to reexamine what I do and how I do it, and I always feel as if I come away with new insights as a result.
What strikes me about the resolutions contributed is how sensitive they are to the role of the leader who finds themselves in the midst of dramatic change, fully aware that time is often short, that the choices required are frequently far from straight-forward, that the situation is stressful, and, yet, how each resolution argues for thinking before doing, that sufficient time must be found for reflection regarding the context in which the leadership role is being played, and that this is critically important to the choices being selected. They then go on to suggest a reasonably modest reset of current attitudes and behaviors in order to essentially give the decision-maker access to more, rather than fewer ideas.
"Busyness and fear consume our lives today. We are living in a major culture shift in society where leaders are required to make informed and wise decisions in the face of the unknown. This involves taking time out to reflect and having the courage to challenge the status quo. If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old. To be innovative, it is imperative that we balance exploration and exploitation while ensuring that our actions are guided by a healthy moral compass."
Dan Pontefract, CEO of The Pontefract Group and author of Open To Think. @dpontefract
"While it may sound ironic, those with clever innovation abilities take the time to pause, dream and marinate in the moment before taking action. The tendency to jump quickly into execution often results in poor results, and thus poor innovation."
Herminia Ibarra, Professor of organizational behavior at London Business School and author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader @HerminiaIbarra
"We all know that innovative thinking requires a little slack, a different logic, more bandwidth. James March famously called this the “technology of foolishness,” which stands in contrast to the “technology of efficiency.” The latter is all about achieving goals, faster, more smoothly. You might stop multitasking, for example, because it reduces efficiency. The former, foolishness, is about suspending goals. Doing things just for the sheer enjoyment of them, which ultimately make us more flexible and resilient.
"Our mornings have been hijacked by the technology of efficiency – we get up early and devote our energies to what will maximize output. But, another way of looking at the morning routine is to consider what will prolong the enjoyment of the restful state. One person I admire gets up and reads fiction. That seemed extremely indulgent to me. But why not do what one enjoys most first rather than last, if at all. The state of mind it creates for the rest of the day may well pay off more in creativity than something that was strategically designed to do so."
Gianpiero Petriglieri, INSEAD professor who specializes in leadership development and who writes about the beginning of innovation and personal change. @gpetriglieri
"Based on my research (with Sue Ashford and Amy Wresniewski) on independent and creative workers, my resolution is to cultivate the bonds that make the mind focused and free. While we often think of bonds as constraining us, we found that some are liberating. There are connections to specific places, inspiring people, routine practices, and a unique purpose that strengthen our discipline and make space for our imagination. Cultivating such connections is essential to make space for innovation—in our surroundings, and in our mind."
Abhijit Bhaduri, Talent management advisor to global organizations & the author of The Digital Tsunami. Abhijit is the creator of the sketchnote that accompanies this blog. @AbhijitBhaduri
"I will leverage the ideas that emerge from 'weak ties'. These are people who are in the network of my friends but are strangers to me. That will expose me to new disciplines, new perspectives and often opposing belief systems. Innovation often occurs when I can connect the familiar with the unfamiliar."
Estelle Metayer, Principal and founder of Competia, Estelle is a trend-spotter whose purview stretches from blockchain to the longevity economy, to the future of luxury good retail, and other emerging trends that will shape our world to come. @competia
"For me in 2019, it’s all about polymaths: those who have cultivated deep skills in a variety of discipline and subjects. My inspiration is in spotting them, unveiling their passions, and admiring how their minds work, the connections they are making- learning along the way on all the skills they master."
The observations recognize that innovation is inherently a social phenomenon; it's who you talk to, and when, and where that can make the difference. By choosing to change the pace by which we work, the way we begin our day, the spaces that we spend time in, the partners who we converse with and a willingness to occasionally choose foolishness over efficiency, they offer us a set of simple, yet profound means of altering our behaviors so that we can better appreciate the forces of innovation that are everywhere.
Professor of Innovation Management at IMD and co-director of the IMD/MIT-Sloan Driving Strategic Innovation program. Previously, Executive President and Dean of CEIBS (the China-European International Business School) in Shanghai (1997-1999). Co-author of "Reinventing Giants...
Bill Fischer is Professor of Innovation Management at IMD, and co-director of the IMD-MIT/Sloan Driving Strategic Innovation Program. He was previously Executive President and Dean of CEIBS.