There's general consensus that today’s business environment is more volatile and unpredictable than ever. Disruption of products, services, channels, policies, talent, brands and supply chains is increasing as nimble start ups attack the component parts within the value chain of established incumbents across all industries.
Organisations require a robust capacity to innovate in order to survive, and this requires that they have both creative leaders and a creative culture.
The leadership challenge, well articulated by Tim Brown, CEO of renowned design strategy firm IDEO, is that most of today’s leaders achieved their position through having the right answer, whereas in our increasingly complex and interconnected world, it's nigh on impossible for leaders to hold all the answers.
Additionally, organizations that are designed around efficiency, optimised to deliver what they hold onto as the single answer to a need, are usually not very curious. Whilst, as the ground shifts beneath us, what's important is the ability to ask the right questions, and having the capability to act on discovery. Cultivating a culture that permits experimentation and learning from failure is the way forward.
Today's leaders need to get comfortable with the idea that if they once were, they may no longer be 'the smartest person in the room'. Instead, they need to develop the skills to frame the issues, guide their teams to find those answers, and create a culture that is supportive of the iterative test and learn cycle that underpins innovation.
As hierarchies are eliminated, leaders cannot afford to be out of touch with their customers. Leaders need to drive that empathy for the customer that is at the core of design thinking, and to inspire their teams to solve for customer problems.
A hallmark of innovative thinking is the ability to be open and adaptable. Leading for innovation requires you to hold, simultaneously, multiple and even conflicting points of view as valid. Bias and beliefs are hypotheses to be tested as much as new ideas themselves.