You didn’t get to where you are today without being open minded. Unfortunately, not everyone is the same way… as you may have discovered if you've previously tried to pitch innovation to the board and gotten nowhere! But don’t let that discourage you.
If you have ideas about the direction that your organisation should be heading in, it’s important to get the senior operational leaders on board with your innovation strategy as soon as you can. But, as McKinsey notes, leaders today are ‘largely focusing on maintaining business continuity, especially in their core’; a focus which unfortunately means that ‘investments in innovation are suffering’.
And it’s not just a focus on the core business that’s deterring senior leaders from embracing business innovation. A desire to conserve resources that are already stretched thin, and a concern about challenging established business values, are obstacles, too.
But, by creating an innovative mindset across the leadership team, it’s possible to really spark excitement about digitisation and the potential future of the company…
… so how can you do that?
Here are 4 ways to get everyone - even the executives - thinking innovatively while putting the myth that there is insufficient capacity to innovate to bed once and for all:
Does one person have what it takes to introduce widespread change? Sure. Is it easy? Not always! Remember that you don’t have to take responsibility for promoting an innovative mindset alone; you can make bigger strides by leveraging the influence of others. Look at your team and identify those that have the ability to really drive people.
Look for change makers, people willing to be bold, and people that are confident enough to venture off in their own direction rather than just following the crowd. Including the right people early on in the process can help to make an innovative mindset the norm; a part of the day-to-day culture that shapes business activities.
Identifying organisational influencers is just one part of the equation… you also have to mobilise them to take action by sharing compelling examples of innovation. Don’t fall into the trap of being dependent on other divisions for innovation; start activating your own people and begin building this innovative mindset internally before enabling it to spread to the senior leaders.
Unfortunately, this can be tricky, especially when your own people are sticklers for tradition, and already so busy that you feel hesitant to ask them to do more. But by activating your people and making small changes early on, you can help senior leaders to visualise alternative ways of working and help them see the potential for innovation.
Flexibility is key. When you’re flexible in your approach to innovation, you can make decisions quickly that help the business to adapt to the current environment, remain relevant with customers, anticipate new trends, and close the supply gap before competitors. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what senior leaders want to see?
When you’re able to turn the business in the right direction at speed, you’re going to get the senior leadership team excited about what an innovative mindset can really achieve, and that’s half the battle. Slow execution and progress makes people bored and uninterested, but when you show what innovation can do, everything changes.
For a long time, external business support consultancies have held this idea that hours = results. But the truth is that hours mean absolutely nothing to the senior operational leaders in your organisation. It’s time to move away from this outdated concept, and take a more outcome-driven approach by focusing on concrete execution and results.
Senior leaders don’t care if an idea was generated in 5 minutes. As long as it produces results, that’s what matters to them. That’s what’s going to get them willing to not only embrace but also adopt an innovative mindset. Tangible results are the final straw most leaders need to get onboard, so don’t tell them what innovation can do… show them.
The most obvious reason why senior buy-in for innovation is so important is that it’s the executive team that’s going to make innovation happen; they’re going to approve budgets, and they’re going to give you the green light to move forward with plans.
But there’s another reason, too...
It’s certainly no secret that innovation works best when everyone works together. After all, innovation isn’t about trying new things for the sake of it. It’s about trying new things to strengthen the balance; to increase business results, boost the value of the firm, and grow your market share by fast-tracking an organisation towards its corporate goals.
And when everyone - including the senior operational leaders in your business - is all on the same page, with the same mindset, and working towards the same overall goals, you have peace of mind that all innovation activities you choose to undertake are directly contributing towards the critical changes that are needed to succeed.