An Innovation Equation for Next Generation Leaders

An Innovation Equation for Next Generation Leaders

One of the interesting cultural elements of many of the technology companies I have worked with has been network leadership. No matter whether you are a newly minted graduate or a seasoned professional, these tech-driven, high energy companies rely on individual, group, management and executive leadership to succeed. But obviously, this also comes with challenges. Risks. After all, you never become a leader unless you develop a level of risk tolerance. Jeff Dyer and Nathan Furr have been studying innovation capital and what it takes to grow yourself and your company from a leadership perspective. Unsurprisingly, they focus their attention firstly on you – the leader: Innovation capital begins with innovation skills. If you can’t figure out how to successfully lead an innovation initiative, you will never build a track record for innovation among your social connections or a broader community. So it starts with you—and what management scholars call your “human capital.” But as they delved deeper, they identified two key skills: Forward thinking: Casting your vision into the future to understand the trends, opportunities and challenges that are beyond our usual time horizon. Proactive problem solving: This means relentlessly pursuing problems and challenges in order to solve them. Just make sure that these are problems worth solving. These are essential components of what I call the entrepreneur mindset – but I do like the three dimensions that Dyer and Furr have described: Social Capital + Human Capital + Reputation Capital = Innovation Capital This “innovation equation” explains why innovation is hard work. Not only does it require you to activate your business and personal networks (social capital),...
Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

We have known for a long time that women led businesses perform well. In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in IT companies that have directors who are women. And yet many companies – not only IT companies – struggle to attract and retain high performing, senior women. But it’s not only women at the top that drive business value. While the gender pay gap remains resolutely at an unacceptable level – women continue to earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man – we also know that diversity in the workforce also creates benefit for companies, industries and whole economies. For example, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost a country’s GDP by up to 34%. This means that there’s a positive multiplier effect that comes from eliminating the gender pay gap – yet the logic of the situation in no way guarantees the change that would improve all our lives. Clearly, we need to focus on a pipeline of female talent and strategies to engage, support, strengthen and retain women as they move through our enterprises. We also need to continue to push for equal pay and opportunity where ever possible. But what about the startup sector – the high growth businesses that are generating unprecedented wealth across the globe? Given the fast moving, high growth focus of most venture capital and investment firms, it would be easy to think that the smart VC money...
Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

No matter where we look across our businesses we see technology driven change and transformation opportunities. There are challenges to business models, new operating models on the horizon and disruptive competitors knocking on our customer’s doors. And, of course, where we find challenges, we find options for growth. For leaders, however, the challenge is not necessarily responding to this disruption – it’s predicting it. Now, I know what you’re thinking … disruptive innovation or change is disruptive precisely because it cannot be predicted. And while this is true to a certain extent, it’s equally true that disruption doesn’t come from nowhere. There are trends, pressures, movements and shifts that help us see them in advance. And this is why you need a disruptive innovation radar. Here’s what I mean. For leaders, it’s essential to cultivate the entrepreneurs mindset – and this means finding ways and means of stepping, and staying, outside of our natural comfort zones. Here are five ways to do this: Keep a watching brief on the new: Stay curious by observing, watching and listening to the early adopters within your network. Better yet, take a single step beyond your network – to a colleague of a colleague – and arrange a meeting, coffee or get together. Learn what is happening on the fringe of your business consciousness. Seek the problem worth solving: Not all challenges that you uncover in your business life will be worth pursuing. Find the problems that appear intractable. Look for the challenges where teams continue to fail. When you find a customer opportunity wrapped in a problem worth solving, you’re on the...
The Entrepreneur’s Mindset – Finding the Comfort in Discomfort

The Entrepreneur’s Mindset – Finding the Comfort in Discomfort

Anyone that knows me, knows I love food. When I travel, I seek out textures and flavors. It’s exciting to learn how experiences and cultures intermingle – how the taste of the same dish delivered on opposite sides of the world changes. For example, those of you who have traveled to Japan, know that edamame can vary not just from restaurant to restaurant – but also from city to city and country to country. The edamame I get from my local restaurant is very different to that served in downtown Tokyo. When we travel, we carry with us an expectation, that our favorite foods will be the same, but different. We know this is the case and in most cases we are fine with this. We take that risk – and we take it because we know and understand the reward that comes with the risk. It’s in the food, its flavor and the experience of eating in a new, unexplored place. The risk is very much part of the experience. And as someone who travels a great deal, I have become increasingly fascinated with the power of our own thinking, with our mindset and how it can transform not just our business or our experiences. It can, in fact, change our worlds. As leaders, we are well versed in risk management. We are constantly balancing risk and reward on behalf of our businesses, stakeholders and shareholders. We build processes and governance on the one hand, to help manage risk at an organizational level, while on the other, we seek and push the limits of growth to drive business...