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Innovation

Innovation is the application of new solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulate needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and new that "breaks in to" the market or into society. One usually associates to new phenomena that are important in some way. A definition of the term, in line with these aspects, would be the following: "An innovation is something original, new, and important - in whatever field - that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society."

Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.

Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.

Innovation leadership

Innovation leadership involves synthesizing different leadership styles in organizations to influence employees to produce creative ideas, products, services and solutions.

The key role in the practice of innovation leadership is the innovation leader. Dr. David Gliddon (2006) developed the competency model of innovation leaders and established the concept of innovation leadership at Penn State University.

As an approach to organization development, innovation leadership can be used to support the achievement of the mission or vision of an organization or group. In a world that is ever changing with new technologies and processes, it is becoming necessary for organizations to think innovatively in order to ensure their continued success and stay competitive. In order to adapt to new changes, the need for innovation in organizations has resulted in a new focus on the role of leaders in shaping the nature and success of creative efforts. Without innovation leadership, organizations are likely to struggle. This new call for innovation represents the shift from the 20th century, traditional view of organizational practices, which discouraged employee innovative behaviors, to the 21st century view of valuing innovative thinking as a potentially powerful influence on organizational performance.

Overview

To have a clear understanding of what innovation leadership involves, one must first understand the concept of innovation. Although there is some controversy over how it can be defined, through general consensus in the literature, it can be described as novel ideas of viable products that are put into operation.

It includes three different stages, which are all dynamic and iterative (constant):

    • Idea Generation
    • Evaluation
    • Implementation

  • .

    The two types of innovation include exploratory innovation, which involves generating brand new ideas, and exploitative innovation, which involves modifying and improving ideas that already exist. It is of importance to note that the ideas generated need to be useful in order to be considered innovative. Innovation should also not be confused with creativity, which is merely the generation of a novel idea that may not necessarily be put into operation, although these words are sometimes used interchangeably in research literature when speaking about innovation leadership. Innovation leadership is a quite complex concept, as there is no single explanation or formula for a leader to follow to increase innovation. As a result, innovation leadership encompasses a variety of different, activities, actions, and behaviors that interact with one another to produce an innovative outcome.


    Idea Generation :
    Idea Generation

    As mentioned above, different types of leadership styles and behaviors may be more appropriate at different stages of the innovation process. Current research supports the notion that in the idea generation process, innovation leadership requires a leader to use a more transformational style of leadership. During this stage, a leader needs to promote a safe environment for employees/team members to voice novel ideas and original thinking as well as provide workers with the resources to do so effectively. Research has also found that leaders who engage in unconventional behaviors, associated with transformational leadership, were seen as stronger role models and, as a result, increase creative performance in their subordinates. For example, the founders of Google have been known to wear capes and jump-shoes to around the office, thus inspiring more outside-the-box thinking in their employees.These open leadership behaviors convey that unorthodox and unconventional ideas and behaviors are not only accepted but also encouraged.


    Idea Evaluation and Implementation :
    Idea Evaluation and Implementation

    In addition to providing a climate for idea generation, innovation leadership also requires leaders to ensure that the process of idea generation does not overshadow the evaluation and implementation processes. During these phases of leadership, leaders must support some ideas while discarding other ideas and put the supported ideas into production. The role of the leader must shift away from a transformational style to a more transactional style of leadership, which involves being more direct and critical toward the ideas generated. A leader now needs to ensure that constructive discussions of innovative ideas are taking place among their subordinates. This serves to evaluate the usefulness of each idea, eliminate those that do not appear viable to the organization or goal, and push the ones that do appear viable into the production phase. The leader needs to adopt what are known as closed leadership behaviors in order to achieve this; instead of stimulating idea generation, he or she must shift the focus away from generating new ideas toward fine-tuning existing ideas in the interest of achieving progress toward the goal at hand and ultimately implementing the idea.

    This challenge of maintaining a delicate balance of differing leadership styles when appropriate is termed the Generator Evaluator paradox; it is important to consider the role of ambidextrous leadership since a leader must be able to switch back and forth between leadership roles/styles when necessary in order to successfully lead for innovation. Paradoxes of innovation leadership are discussed in further detail below.

    Value-added Innovation :
    Value-added Innovation

    Research posits that exploratory and value-added innovation require different leadership styles and behaviors in order to be carried out successfully.

    Value-added innovation (PwC, 2010) involves refining and revising an existing product or service and typically requires minimal risk taking (compared to exploratory innovation, which often involves taking a large risk); in this case, it is most appropriate for a leader for innovation to adopt a transactional form of leadership. This is because a transactional leadership style does not utilize open leadership behaviours such as encouraging employees to experiment and take risks, but rather utilizes closed leadership behaviors which do not condone or reward risk-taking. Examples of companies whose innovation leaders use transactional leadership for value-added innovation purposes include Toyota Motor Co., General Motors Corp, and Ford Motor Co.; examples of these companies’ value-added innovations such as making improvements on existing cars by making them faster, more comfortable, and getting better gas mileage.

    Occasionally an value-added innovation may require a completely new way of thinking and possibly taking new risks. An example of this scenario can be illustrated through Aspirin; this was an existing product, traditionally used as an analgesic to alleviate aches and pains, but has been introduced into a new and different market by extending its uses to helping prevent heart attack and reduced blot clot formation. In this example, the usage of an existing product was re-worked and introduced into a new market. While an existing product is being changed and/or improved upon, characterizing it as a value-added innovation, outside-the-box thinking, research, and risk-taking are now required since it is being introduced into a new market. In this case, a transformational leadership style is a more appropriate style to use.

    The innovation leader must gauge if (and how much) risk and radical thinking are involved in the value-added innovation at hand in order to determine which leadership style is most appropriate to use in the situation. In this way, the leader must be an ambidextrous leader through flexibly switching leadership behaviors when necessary.


    Exploratory Innovation :
    Exploratory Innovation

    Exploratory innovation refers to the generation of novel ideas, strategies, and solutions through the use of strictly open behaviors exhibited most often by transformational leaders.

    The foundation of exploratory innovation is characterized by search, discovery, experimentation, and risk taking. It is the organization’s focus on generating new ideas, products and strategies; in contrast to exploitative innovation, which focuses on building and extending already existing ideas. Some studies have shown that explorative and exploitative innovation require different structures, strategies, processes, capabilities, and cultures.

    Exploratory innovation requires flexibility, opportunism, adaptability, and for leaders to provide intellectual stimulation to their subordinates. In this approach to innovation, the leadership style that is primarily used is transformational. The behaviors exhibited are believed to achieve the desired creative outcome from employees through the application of individualized consideration, charisma, and inspirational motivation.

    For example in one study of the innovation practices at AXA Insurance in Ireland. The CEO John O’Neil engaged in transformational leadership behaviors and introduced the 'MadHouse' program that combined workers from different departments and levels of the organization to work together in a creative way. The result of this experiment after six months was 150 new business ideas for products and services.

    Explorative and Exploitative innovation are often referenced together but there is surprisingly little research that shows an interaction between the two, however, there is an understanding that a in some circumstances a ‘balance’ needs to be attained in order to achieve superior performance from employees. For example, not all novel ideas will be sent into the implementation stages of innovation and may be resurrected at a later time. It may then be necessary for the organization to switch gears and adopt exploitative strategies in order to revise and refine the idea to be suitable for present needs.






    Quality Service

    Innovation is more than having new ideas: it includes the process of successfully introducing them or making things happen in a new way. It turns ideas into useful, practicable and commercial products or services.
    -John Adair

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