Which is easier to learn: innovation or leadership? That is one of my favorite questions to ask during keynotes and workshops, especially to groups of accomplished leaders. What amazes me is the answer I get back: overwhelmingly, groups of executives say that leadership is easier to learn than innovation.
Innovation is a skill, not a gift. Top organizations drive growth by nurturing and investing in innovation as a competency. One way organizations make it real is by including innovation within formal competency models.
Professor Rodney Rogers of Portland State University defines a competency as a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. It is the persistence of those behaviors that matter most and help your organization succeed. Competency models are a useful way to formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They help describe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They are a blueprint for the type of person needed for a specific job. And they help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it's worth it.
There is an inherent bias against innovation despite the enormous value it holds for organizations. Corporate executives know that innovation is the only true long term growth engine for their firm. Yet innovation carries with it a certain stigma, a perception in the minds of executives, that it is "soft" and frivolous compared to other hard core business activities like productivity, quality, and demand generation. This stigma deters executives from taking risk and investing in serious innovation initiatives.
marketing or R&D? It's a trick question, of course. But it's a useful question for Fortune 100 companies to consider. Has your company made a conscious choice of how it "allocates" this leadership role?
Allocating innovation to one group over the other will yield a different business result. The approaches to innovation by marketing are dramatically different than approaches to innovation by R&D, so the outputs will be dramatically different. The question becomes: which group will outperform the other? Technical-driven innovation or marketing-driven innovation?
Are hopeful employees more innovative? A new study by Armenio Rego and his colleagues shows how employees' sense of hope explains their creative output at work. They asked one hundred and twenty five employees to rate their personal sense of hope and happiness while their supervisors rated the employees' creativity. Based on the correlations, they conclude that hope predicts creativity.
Hope is defined as a positive motivational belief in one's future; the feeling that what is wanted can be had; that events will turn out for the best. Hoping is an integral part of being human. Without hope, tasks such as innovating become difficult if not impossible. Why bother if there is no hope for a successful future? "Hope is important for innovation at work because creativity requires challenging the status quo and a willingness to try and possibly fail. It requires some level of internal, sustaining force that pushes individuals to persevere in the face of challenges inherent to creative work."
New research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that having our ideas rejected tends to boost our creativity output. Sharon Kim and her colleagues found that when most of us experience rejection, it can actually enhance our creativity, depending on how we respond to it. The paper, titled “Outside Advantage: Can Social Rejection Fuel Creative Thought?,” was recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Experimental Psychology. It also received a best-paper award at the Academy of Management (AOM) conference held this month in Boston.