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Leadership Determines How Companies Innovate

Innovation is the buzz word that many companies like to use these days, yet different companies have a different understanding of what being innovative means. According to Forbes contributor, Michelle Greenwald, innovation is “fulfilling unmet consumer needs, by offering new ways to accomplish goals, or make lives or jobs easier, better, happier, more exciting, satisfying, or more productive.”

So, how do you know if an organization is truly innovative?

An innovative organization must have an innovative culture. That culture comes from the top down, which means the CEO and executive team must embrace and promote an organizational culture for innovation. Companies that have an innovative culture are ones that,

  • Foster an environment of free thinking

  • Encourage experimentation

  • Take calculated risks

  • Learn how to connect the dots

  • Collaborate with others not like themselves

  • Partner outside an organization’s core area of expertise or industry

  • Are comfortable having concepts fail early and often without breaking the bank

  • Celebrate “failures” because something valuable was learned to try again

  • Accept that some innovations occur because of happenstance

  • Do not give up

So, if you want to assess if a company is an innovative organization, the answer lies in the leadership style of the CEO. If the CEO is market-driven, he or she tends to be a visionary and is typically known as a world-class innovator; he/she can adjust to market changes quickly and are very customer-focused. If the CEO has an execution style of leadership, he or she is often best at increasing shareholder value and is laser-focused on outselling the competition, but may not be leading an organization with a strong innovative culture.

Both styles of CEOs are needed at different stages of a company’s life, however, if it’s an innovation culture that you seek, study the top leadership of a company. How a CEO communicates and what he or she values can provide insights as to what type of organization they lead and if they are a company fostering true innovation.

Sherry Scullion is a visionary and catalytic thinker of Innovation Strategy and President of the Scullion Strategy Group, LLC.


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