Leading Innovation

Liza Cirlot Looser, CEO

The Cirlot Agency has had the honor of working in the aerospace/defense industry for 32 of the 34 years we have been in business. In that time, we’ve found that if there is one core value the industry embraces, it is innovation. And now, more than ever, innovation seems to lead the future of every industry. With that said, let me pose a question. How do you lead, and help your team execute, innovation within the walls of your company?

We have all heard the term “disruptive innovation.” In previous Cirlot blogs, we shared stories of what is and what is not actually “disruptive.” For example, Uber had been noted as an example of disruptive innovation, but many, including the Harvard Business Review, argue that it is actually an existing service done better. The central point is that disruptive innovation creates something that did not exist before – something that creates an entirely new market foothold – such as the iPhone and iPad.

In his book “The Art of Innovation,” Guy Kawasaki relays that the fundamental practice of innovation begins with “Rethink, Redefine, Recreate.” During a TEDx presentation at Berkeley a few years ago, Kawasaki reviewed the 10 elements of innovation. Always entertaining, this 21:15 minute video is worth the time to be inspired by him:

For leaders, innovation lives or dies internally; it is that simple. A critical element of a sustainable initiative is the leadership and internal support invested in employees who are actually responsible for being innovative. A recent article, published by Rotman Management and Harvard Business Review, identifies 7 specific tasks for executives to lead an innovation initiative:

  • Scan for and Support Best Practices
  • Develop Employee Skills
  • Support Your Business Units
  • Identify New Market Spaces
  • Help People Generate Ideas
  • Provide Funding
  • Design “Shelter” for Innovations

By reinforcing your company’s innovation mission, along with consistent communication of your vision to the innovation team, everyone will be able to stay on point and within the scope of assigned responsibilities. This article also describes how companies like BASF, GE and NASA customized their initiatives by referring to their teams as “Innovation Black Belts” and centers as “Hot Houses,” and “FutureWorks,” as well as GE’s “ecomagination,” an open-innovation program that, in 10 weeks, created a community of 74,000 people from 150 countries that resulted in $160 billion dollars in revenue over a 9-year period.

In closing, innovation is important to every facet of every industry and it must be embraced, starting with the CEO, and integrated throughout the entire organization. I will be sharing insights into innovation and how we, as leaders, can create an internal environment conducive to inspiring brilliance. Stay tuned!

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