The purpose of organizational leadership is to provide a vision to the organization of where it wants the organization to be and to provide a clear mission to get there. By default, this means that leadership provides the answer to the question of how to balance the existing operational excellence with the changes required to achieve the mission. Innovation is the tool that the organization leverages to achieve its mission.
With the increased speed of change, driven by the rapid development of digital technology and online business models, organizations need to be able to adapt to the developments quickly and decisively. The rapid change of its environment pushes leadership to require changes in its organization and mission ever faster. Innovation has changed from an incidental practice to leverage new opportunities to a continuous process to facilitate an ever-changing organization.
The rapid technological developments and the need for responsiveness in organizations has paved the way for the Lean-Agile enterprise. In Lean-Agile, leadership has changed from dictating the organization ‘how’ to achieve its mission to explaining to the organization ‘why’ the change is required and ‘what’ should change. The organization itself then is asked to determine the ‘how’. This approach was made popular by Simon Sinek in his book ‘Start with Why’, and now serves as a frame of reference to most leadership structures.
The combination of rapidly changing technology and markets and Lean-Agile leadership requires that innovation becomes a continuous process rather than an incidental achievement. With management not dictating what to innovate, but why to innovate arises a new need for managers to guide the direction of the endless stream of innovative possibilities towards a strategic goal. This is why, at the organizational level of the Continuous Innovation Framework, leadership is required to set value goals and focus areas and to provide the organization with targeted challenges.
“What to deliver”
First and foremost, innovation is a tool to deliver value to the organization. The purpose of setting value goals is to direct the effort of innovation to achieve value rather than to achieve a technological breakthrough. Teams of people pursuing innovations in order to achieve a particular business value tend to become more creative and are generally more successful than teams of people striving to ‘get something to work’.
“Where to deliver it”
Innovation is an area in which it is easy to get lost in possibilities and opportunities. Both are great for inventors, but in organizations, they tend to consume time and energy that might be better spent when focused. It is the task of the leadership to set the vision and mission. Hence, it is the task of leadership to set focus areas for the biggest changes in the organization. Focus areas may include new product lines, new markets, new business models etc. Focus areas are never specific but do target the energy and resources of innovation teams to achieve change.
“The urgency to achieve”
Innovation is often slow and difficult. Challenges serve as an exciting way to boost creativity and speed in innovation teams. Challenges are strategic in nature, never operational. They describe a concrete value goal in a specific focus area, bound by a time limit or resource limit. A challenge is used when there is time-pressure, competitive pressure or other pressing issues that require instant innovative power.