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How Leaders Can Show Real Commitment to Innovation

It doesn't have to be expensive but leaders must make the effort to recognize and celebrate innovative thinking, and give staff the time to develop new and useful ideas

Most executives are well aware of the need to get their companies supporting all the work that goes into innovation. They often talk about creating  a “culture of innovation” as a cornerstone of their corporate strategy to grow their companies, stay relevant in the eyes of customers, and beat their competitors to market.

This is good news, as leadership commitment is consistently ranked as the most important contributing factor to a culture of innovation across industries, according to CEB analysis.

Word and Deed

But too often, unfortunately, their good words are not matched by equally good deeds. CEB data and analysis also show that, while leadership commitment is fundamental to an innovative culture, it’s also the thing that companies most need help with improving.

At the majority of firms surveyed by CEB, although senior leaders say they prioritize innovation, their support doesn’t materialize in the form of initiatives that prioritize and provide resources for innovation.

So, to help them get started, here are three initiatives senior leaders can take to demonstrate their commitment to innovation.

  1. Launch innovation hackathons: Start an annual competition that challenges individual staff or business units to spend a few days a week generating innovative ideas. Staff who come up with new or useful ideas often don’t have channels or time through which to pursue them since they are focused on day-to-day work.

    Dedicating a chunk of time to this hackathon sends your staff the message that innovation is a priority, gives staff a break from short-term execution to pursue ideas they otherwise would not have time to, and can generate the next breakthrough idea for the firm to capitalize on.

  2. Train managers to support innovators: Create training programs for all managers to recognize and support the five key innovative behaviors in staff.

    Most managers don’t realize their current management techniques may actually inhibit innovation, and disgruntling staff. Help managers understand the coaching, collaboration, and communication methods that will unlock their staff’s innovation potential.

  3. Celebrate innovative staff: Recognize individuals with innovative ideas through financial and non-financial programs. While verbal praise is good, it does not send a strong enough signal to employees that innovative behavior is highly valued.

    Staff will be motivated and incentivized to achieve innovative results if their efforts are recognized and rewarded through profiles on the company website, opportunities to meet with and share their ideas with senior leadership, and monetary awards.

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