Innovation Part 3 – Leading Innovation


Innovation itself is fantastic and in essence is a form of leadership but, of course, it requires leadership to facilitate and foster it. In fact all innovation needs to be approached with a degree of sagacity as it could become an end in itself rather than serving the vision and mission of the organisation. Talking to leaders in the Silicon Valley from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and others I discovered that one of the main functions of leading innovation and innovative corporations is attracting the best talent. In commenting about leading innovation and developing the right talent pool of diverse contributors Tom Kelley from IDEO says, “anthropologists seek out epiphanies through dreaming about the future and that’s why we refer to them as, “the single biggest source of innovation at IDEO”. Of course, anthropologists add that human element to the technical prowess of engineers and other talent thus making them essential in the innovation process. Great leaders know how to select, nurture and maximise diverse teams.

The idea of seeing something for the first time or Vuja De is also key to leading innovation whether that be seeing an opportunity, a person or even seeing the genius in a mistake or failure. One of the most impacting and surprising discoveries I had in the Silicon Valley was the the attitude to failure. I was amazed how many venture capitalists saw failure not as a negative but rather as potential to get up and try again and discover the real opportunity. When talking about the secrets to the Silicon Valley’s success, Peter Ziebleman, who is a venture capitalist, attributed it in part to “the ability to be able to fail, on the way to success”. He went on to explain that nobody sets out to fail but that failure never disqualifies you from having another chance. In commenting leadership, author Tim Brown said: “Leaders should encourage experimentation and accept that there is nothing wrong with failure as long as it happens early and becomes a source of learning.” Tom Kelley from IDEO puts it this way: “Good companies embrace a culture of mini failures.” I believe this is particularly true when a company determines to be the first, to be the risk taker, to create disruptive technology, to become the innovator and lead its field.

These are just two of the many components that are imperative when it comes to leading innovation and they are the two aspects that have immediate application potential for us at Metamorphic and for you the reader. Our current focus in recruiting is to bolster our talent pool forming a more diverse, rich environment that creates and fosters creativity and innovation. We have also changed the focus of many of our meetings including regular think tank sessions, project and curriculum design workshops and inviting guests who bring a fresh perspective.

The other area we are focussing up on at Metamorphic is to create an environment where people feel safe to fail, knowing that they will get another chance at success. we want a team at Metamorphic that is unafraid to dream, unafraid to innovate and unafraid to act. In the design stage excellence is not the core competency we are looking for – rather we are striving to tap into the genius of our team, to draw out the creative little boy or girl in each of them and give them permission to dream.

So innovation must be led and as Jim Collins says, “we cannot predict the future, but we can create it”. That’s why assembling the correct talent, and nurturing that investment while allowing people to fail forward must become our mantra at Metamorphic!

In our next installment on innovation we will consider the topic Sustainable Innovation.

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