Innovation Leadership Development


Get on the road to innovation

Here’s an article that Dr. Jerry Newman and myself (Dale Perryman) wrote. This is the third in a 3 part blog post. Click on either of the first two highlighted titles to read the prior articles. The three parts include:

1. A Framework for Personal Innovation Leadership

2. Rules and Skills of the Jungle

3. Innovation Leadership Development (This blog post)

The Lions of Innovation program is focused on creating individual leaders who are architects and builders of significant innovations. Generating change, a CREATIVE culture, or new ideas requires both vision and hard work. Although a Lion may in some cases be an inventor, the focus is not on inventors. This program has been valuable in creating a culture of commitment and responsibility that is driven by empowered people.

The Lion program is an effective development tool that encourages leaders who want to make the transition from a compliance culture to a commitment culture. Lions of innovation often lead without organizational authority. Understanding how to influence without authority is a challenge for individual leaders and for organizational leaders as well. Since most organizations are over-managed and under-led (according to John Kotter in his book, A Force for Change), they are more comfortable with compliance than commitment (2). Compliance-focused teams feel that formal authority is the only way to get things done. They need to adjust their mind-sets to accommodate influence without authority.

The program as currently implemented by the authors includes: a two-day session with follow-up; a commitment to practice the principles on a current project; individualized development plans; coaching sessions with sponsors; and forums/workshops on focused topics. The program is intended for potential Lions and their would-be sponsors. The training program is not intended as a “spray and pray” program where you spray employees with information and pray that someone uses it. Lions are expected to actively practice and apply new skills on current projects and sponsors are expected to serve as coaches and mentors.

The program focuses on conveying principles and providing tools to implement learning. Follow-up activities reinforce the importance of individual leadership and teach participants that this is not a program-of-the-month that will go away. More importantly, organizational leaders must be involved in teaching the material. Involvement of these leaders will help the material “stick” within the culture, and leaders who are forced to defend certain concepts will be changed in the process. Follow-up workshops bring in specific subject matter experts to discuss such topics as networking, new product finance models, influencing without authority, systems thinking and meeting facilitation.

Within almost any change or development program, there are generally three types of individuals:
1. Those who ‘get it’ and are able to practice the skills,
2. Those who will ‘get it’ with reinforcement
3. Those don’t ‘get it’ and are not willing to put in the hard work to become Lions.

While we have observed a small number of individuals in the third group who don’t pass the follow-through test, we know that most individuals regain the ‘spring in their step’ after going through the Lion program. Through this program we have found a way to tap into more of the passion and creativity of the many individuals who participate in innovation processes.

1. Pinchot, Gifford. 1986. Intrapreneuring : why you don’t have to leave the corporation to become an entrepreneur. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
2. Kotter, John P. 1990. A force for change : how leadership differs from management. New York: The Free Press.
3. Markham, Stephen K. 2002. Product champions: Crossing the valley of death. In The PDMA toolbook for New Product Development, edited by A. G. Paul Belliveau, Stephen Somermeyer. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
4. Newman, Jerry L. 2008. CREATIVE Lions of Innovation.
5. von Oech, Roger. 1983. A whack on the side of the head: How to unlock your mind for innovation. NewYork, NY: Warner Books.
6. Newman, Jerry L. 2009. Building a CREATIVE High Performance R&D Culture. RESEARCH-TECHNOLOGY MANAGEMENT, pp. 21-31.
7. Heath, Chip and Heath, Dan. 2007. Made to stick: why some ideas survive and others die. New York: Random House; Shell, G. Richard and Moussa, Mario. 2007. The art of woo: Using strategic persuasion to sell your ideas. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
8. Seligman, Martin E. P. 2006. Learned optimism: How to change your mind and your life. New York: Vintage.