Saturday, June 22, 2019

Master Pairs of Paradoxical Roles of Innovation Leadership

Digital leaders today need to be highly intelligent and innovative. They have to present a set of unconventional intelligence and play many paradoxical roles effortlessly.

Leadership is all about change and innovation. We all know that the "good old days" of prospects knocking on your door are gone. The businesses and the world have stepped into the digital era with "VUCA" characteristics (Velocity, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity). Innovation is the most desired change. As change is often uncomfortable, yet the necessary part of reaching the future and sustaining business success. Innovative leaders are in strong demand, they are able to think of new ways to run the business and master the paradoxical roles of innovation leadership effortlessly.

Innovation theorist and practitioner: Innovative leadership is essentially anchored on the leader's overall multifaceted resourcefulness and versatility to formulate creative alternatives or unconventional solutions to resolve problems. Often, in siloed society with overly restrictive boundaries and knowledge scarcity, people who do the innovation practices or experiments couldn't "walk the talk"; while innovation theorists who often live in the "ivy tower," do not get the chance to practice their innovation theories. Thus, there are some discrepancy or gaps existing, causing the high rate of innovation failures. In the hyperonnected digital era with knowledge abundance, digital leaders should be both innovation theorists and practitioners at the same time. They not only need to lead the great teams for transforming novel ideas to achieve their commercial values but more crucially, but they are also able to “walk the talk,” develop innovation principles in association with practices in a field of innovation activities and forming its content as an intellectual management discipline. In fact, innovation theory and practice are inextricably linked and the theory of phenomenon should always be open to interpretation and understanding of the theory should be properly questioned. Neither innovation theories nor practices can be ignored as both are equally important. If the innovation theory is sound, then it can help the innovation practice achieve repeatability of the outcome. Repeatability reinforces innovation theories but practices and tinkering are what lead to innovation success. Besides innovation theories and practices, innovation leaders need to demonstrate courage, persistence, and wisdom to overcome many roadblocks on the journey and bring measurable business value with continuous delivery consistently.

Innovation strategist and experimentalist: In forward-thinking organizations, innovation strategy is an integral component of business strategy. A strategy is the organization's competitive "logic" manifested through organizational actions. Thus, it’s important for top digital leaders spending time thinking and acting strategically. In fact, “strategy” should be in the “DNA” of the top leadership team of the company. In reality, many senior executives spend less than 5% of their time stepping back from the day-to-day grind of the business to think longer-term. Innovation strategy as the “organizational logic” could be acquired through a learning process; some use the power of analysis, others may use influence to shape the discussion of ideas and innovation strategy. Innovation leaders are strategists who need to shape a solid innovation strategy with many important business elements such as framework, process, technology, talent, etc, to manage innovation systematically and build differentiated innovation competency by taking a step-wise approach. At the same time, innovation leaders should also be the experimentists who can experiment with new things, alternative solutions, hypothesize interventions and iterate them till the right fit is made. They are also able to identify key leverage points where the nonproportional impact can be made and amplify innovation impact.

The artist vs. scientist: Managing innovation is both art and science. Thus, innovation leaders somehow need to be both artists and scientists. The art is always required to some degree, but there is no way you will succeed in managing innovation without thoroughly understanding and implementation of science. One major part of the art of management is knowing how much science you need for each innovation initiative. Innovation is not serendipity. It involves a lot of planning, processes, risk management, and execution. It also requires an equal amount of people skills in identifying the right team composition or task assignments based on people skills and understanding team potential. Innovation Management takes both logic and intuition. Innovation management is the art as it allows a great deal of interpretation and latitude. It has a scientific part where a lot of things are proven, repeatable, and methothedology that can be effectively used, etc. Innovation leaders are like scientists because they are able to think in a structural manner and take a systematic view on consideration, approaches, processes, and components in managing innovation. Innovation leaders are also like artists who can leverage design thinking, bring up “gut feeling” intuition, and master the art of communication and contemporary management.

Digital leaders today need to be highly intelligent and innovative. They have to present a set of unconventional intelligence and play many paradoxical roles effortlessly. Paradoxes are conflicting choices or conditions that demand equal attention. It means innovation leaders need to play multiple roles effortlessly, break down outdated rules or traditions, set digital principles and develop next practices to manage innovation effortlessly and improve leadership effectiveness and maturity ultimately.


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