I received the following trends alert related to the role of innovation in our current corporate life. By the way, this is a worthwhile thing to subscribe to!

The point of this post is my comments after the alert. Please read!

Herman Trend Alert: Innovation and Entrepreneurship February 24, 2010

For years now, we have seen a growing trend towards “Innovation” being a leading 
focus for corporations worldwide. A new book from Robert C. Wolcott and Michael 
Lippitz, “Grow from Within: Mastering Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation” 
(McGraw-Hill 2010), provides a roadmap for effectively creating innovation in 
organizations. 

Wolcott is the founder and executive director of the Kellogg Innovation Network 
(KIN), “a unique forum for select executives and innovation managers to meet and 
discuss internal and industry-wide challenges, business growth, risks, and 
successful strategies, with academics from the Kellogg School of Management”.

Discussed in the book, “Innovation Radar” (IR) grew out of an understanding that 
“innovation is about more than just products and technology”. Companies can 
innovate in any area. Using IR, executives look at 12 dimensions of innovation; 
the chart represents all of the activities with which companies can add value. 

The valuable part of IR is that it provides a bridge between strategy and 
innovation and gives executives the opportunity to have all of their questions 
and answers (hopefully) before they begin the strategic process.

Wolcott suggests that entrepreneurs. . .”Be clear about their objectives. Be 
clear about their questions. Recognize that “we [often] only see the things for 
which we are looking”. 

The authors also talk about some corporate initiatives that promote innovation, 
like IBM’s “Global Innovation Outlook” programs and “Innovation Jams”. In these 
unique in-person and online events, IBM engages people from a wide variety of 
enterprises to solve global challenges facing humanity. 

In “Saving America: The Generativity Solution” by Robert R. Carkhuff (HRD Press 
2010). Moving past any obvious political overtones, Carkhuff believes that the 
lack of economic freedom hamstrings entrepreneurship. Defining Generativity as 
“the capacity to generate a new idea”, the author also provides an organized 
approach to innovation. “The Generativity Solution” is the application of 
“generativity” to all areas and levels of human endeavor: individuals, 
organizations, and all components of the community, culture, and economy. And 
that is only the beginning. 

Expect innovation to become increasingly important, as the nations of the world 
look for answers. Wolcott is right: “Corporate entrepreneurship in all of its 
forms is the strategic answer to the challenge of economic growth.” 
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MY COMMENTS:
Yes in fact, innovation is now more than ever critical as our economic engine sputters along. In fact, a recent article in BusinessWeek reflects that.  When 1500 CEOs were asked the question what do you consider to be the most important leadership competency for the future?…the answer was creativity.  Here is the link to the entire article.

http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/109596/what-chief-executives-really-want?mod=career-leadership

In order for innovation to thrive in our corporate environments, there has to be a culture of openness, freedom to disagree, and diversity.

As someone who comes in contact with thousands of managers and team members across North America each year, here in lies a developed concern and reality check:

Conformity and “alikeness” are the desired behaviors! Many people in management and leadership positions have a very low tolerance for diversity and differences, and yet these elements are essential components to innovation.

Many in positions who have the power to champion and foster the very innovation needed, don’t have the emotional intelligence or ego management to create and support an environment necessary for innovation to occur!

I suggest we partner the concept of innovation with the fostering of divergent and contrary thinking. Can we as leaders in the business community handle it? Will we, can we encourage, invite, and welcome differing voices and robust disagreement in the spirit of nurturing independent thinking?

We’ll need it to move our economy, businesses, and country forward.

Coaching Questions: What is your tolerance for people who are dramtically different from you in every way. How do you feel or handle when people disagree with your position in a definitive and dramatic way?  As a manager, do you discourage (either overtly or subtly) disagreement from team members who are attempting to speak up or offer a differing opinion or view?  What does your team or company look like in this regard?