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Innovation (#13)

The Confident Leader

“Innovate or die!” He said sarcastically. “That’s what they say. But, they never lived through a pandemic. I can’t innovate. I’m barely hanging on.”

There is a way to do it better – find it.
— Thomas A. Edison, innovator

This Week’s Edition

Innovation of new products, services, partners and processes are the key to your future growth when the “new normal” arrives. Is innovation on your radar?

Clarify Your Thinking

During the pandemic 75% of executives question their resources to innovate:

·      I don’t have budget dollars.

·      I’m tired.

·      I’m not innovative.

 Thus, a leader can easily slip into thinking, “Survival and innovation are mutually exclusive. If I choose survival, I’ll live to fight another day. If I choose innovation I might die trying.” This binary thinking is where leadership doubt take hold and innovation gets deprioritized.

While their reasons may seem legitimate, the fact remains that those who use their pandemic time to innovate will be light years ahead of their competitors, and to the victor go the spoils.

Sharon, like most resilient leaders today, wants to rise from the ashes stronger than before but wrestles with the conundrum: survival or innovation. To help her grow her leadership confidence, I asked, “What else could be true?”

“What do you mean, Robin?”

“If your current thinking is that survival and innovation are mutually exclusive, what else could be true?”

After several minutes pondering the question, she said, “Innovation is the key to survival and post-crisis growth.”

“Ding. Ding. Ding.” I said. 

While you, the reader, may have seen the answer for Sharon more quickly, when it is your leadership in doubt or your organization struggling to survive, sometimes quick clarity is elusive. This is why outside insight is so important.   

The Clarify Your Thinking Worksheet will help you identify thinking that keeps you from committing to innovation.

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

If you think (and really believe) that innovation is the key to success in and beyond the crisis, then what do you need to do?

Many leaders have shared their challenges related to innovating during the pandemic:

·      Our furloughs have left fewer workers to do the same amount of work.

·      We can’t invest in innovation when our employees took a 20% pay cut.

·      Technology disruption had us scrambling even before the pandemic.

·      The sheer pace of business is smacking us in the face.   

Allocating time, effort and budget to innovation seems like an impossible task at present. But, those same leaders offered solutions which have brought about some early successes:

1.   Crowd-sourcing ideas from atypical internal contributors: the best ideas come from the most unlikely places.

2.   Boldly surveying clients to understand their experience led to ideas to improve. Learn from those who actually consume the product.

3.   Invite new (and sometimes contrarian) voices to the table. This action recognizes that not all points of view are currently at the innovation table.

Focusing on these solutions have allowed some clients to pull through the early stages of the pandemic with unexpected and unprecedented wins:

·      A consulting firm who beat an imbedded competitor to win a marquee client by innovating a new service: work side-by-side with the client vs. just consulting/telling the client what to do.

·      A growth company, burdened with an audit and stiff fine, listened to the “untrained” newest hire who offered a workable solution by innovating a solution thus nullifying the fine.

Check out these 8 Essentials of Innovation as you think about what actions you should take to innovate?

Boost Your Performance

“In past crises, companies that invested in innovation delivered superior growth and performance post crisis. [They] emerged stronger, outperforming the market average by more than 30 percent and continuing to deliver growth over the subsequent three to five years,” reports McKinsey and Company. Something “new” is the ticket to boosting your performance as you ride the pandemic wave.

What’s Your Opinion?

Share with me your approach to innovation.

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

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What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

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