Leadership and Innovation: Learning from the Best

In surveys of most innovative companies, firms like Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Virgin regularly top the ranks, and stories of their emblematic leaders are recurring topics for management books and magazines. But what do Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson have in common? What do they do that steers innovation in their companies? Are they the sole drivers of innovation leadership? And is there a direct link between the innovation capability of a firm and the charisma of its leader? After all, companies such as Toyota, 3M, Samsung, and Logitech are also recognized for their innovation capabilities, even though it would be more difficult to put a face on their innovation leadership. Learning from the experience of some of the most innovative companies, we describe the common traits that characterize innovation leaders but also show the multiple facets of innovation leadership. Innovation leadership involves different roles and abilities across organization levels and strategic orientations, and along the organization and innovation life cycle. Overall, innovation leadership is too diverse to be left to single individuals; it must be embedded in the organization. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Innovation can be defined as marketable invention: the act of generating an idea and transforming it into a new product, service, solution, or business model that can be sold to customers. Managing innovation involves developing a vision and a strategy, setting up the processes that will materialize it, and creating the organizational conditions and culture that will facilitate the emergence of ideas and their implementation. Creativity, innovation strategies, development processes, knowledge


management, and learning organizations, as well as innovative cultures, have long been topics for management books and academic literature on innovation. But to some extent leadership behavior has been identified by many researchers and practitioners as one of the most, if not the most, important driver of innovation.1 Innovation leadership’s role is about inspiration—generating ideas, a vision, and a strategy—and design—building an organizational structure and a flexible culture as well as the speedy processes that support them (see Exhibit 1). And without great innovation leaders, there is no innovation. What would Apple be without Steve Jobs? Microsoft without Bill Gates? Dell without Michael Dell? Google without Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Or Virgin without Richard Branson? What Is an Innovation Leader? The process of innovation is commonly viewed as being organized in two key steps: idea generation and conceptualization (the “front end”) and product development and launch (the “back end”). The first phase is full of uncertainty and requires creativity and vision. The second phase requires discipline and efficiency, and, very often, time is of the essence. These two steps obviously require different kinds of leadership but are inseparable and complementary in determining the success of the new venture. A front-end leader who does not consider the concrete implications of its technology’s choice for the feasibility of the new product is likely to end up with major issues at the implementation stage. A backend leader who loses sight of the strategic vision and objectives of the new product is likely to end up with a market failure (e.g., a “me too” product). A good innovation leader is characterized by the ability to excel on the apparently conflicting skills

c 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) Global Business and Organizational Excellence • DOI: 10.1002/joe.20308 • January/February 2010


A good innovation leader is not so much the one who knows the key success factors but the one who handles risks successfully. a former member of Philips Group management and CEO of Philips Research: “You always need creativity in innovation. founder and former president and chairman of the board of 3M. and Failures Risks/ Uncertainties Errors/ Failures Innovation Initiatives Learning 48 January/February 2010 DOI: 10.1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence .Exhibit 1.] are creative. Innovation Leadership: The Driving Force Innovation leadership Idea.2 A Mix of Emotion and Realism day. Innovation leaders have a strong ability to recognize opportunities and to develop them. vision. so [. strategy Processes Organizational structure and culture of creativity and discipline. used to say. . William McKnight. but in a balanced way. “Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow. and a combination of breadth and depth. Exhibit 2. gathers from many discussions with top innovation leaders and senior executives that innovation leaders share the attributes described in the next six subsections. which makes them generalists and specialists at the same time.”3 The well-known story of 3M’s Post-it notes is a good illustration of how an initial “failure” (microsphere adhesive.] innovation leaders [. a long-time innovation management practitioner and consultant. Deschamps reports the opinion of Ad Huijser. They are not creative every day with a new idea because you cannot lead an organization towards innovation if you change the direction every By nature. A Common Profile for Innovation Leaders Successful innovation leaders are characterized by a set of common attributes.” After creativity comes the time for discipline and implementation. and Failures This is the unusual combination of creativity (to foster the emergence of ideas and concepts) and discipline (to lead the process of development and market launching). Jean-Philippe Deschamps. Risks. a nonsticking glue) can turn into a huge commercial success. And guiding an organization for innovation implies accepting this uncertainty but also learning from failures (see Exhibit 2). identical skills and abilities. The Acceptance of Uncertainty. innovation involves risks and uncertainty. . Innovation. . . Risks.

” “cool. . Stopping is what really asks for making choices.” and the notinvented-here syndrome is pushed out of every laboratory. it is a show. cofounder and former CEO and chairman of TiVo (the revolutionary view-on-demand TV company) inserted two fundamental principles in the company’s charter: (1) not to reinvent the wheel and to do things internally only if it adds value. gives the following comment: “Leadership is pulling the plug. Steve Jobs has a passion for computers and computer design. . an earlier product that flopped. good managers can meet stretched goals (and I’m a good manager). circulates into the “veins” of Apple’s organization and shapes its culture. They encourage their staff to take risk and learn from their failures. an important customer wants it.” “awesome. of course. cumulative investment grows. and the time is gone when Bell Laboratories was locking its engineers away to come up with new ideas and was basing its new products on their inspiration. like blood. Ad Huijser. Not Just to Start Them Curiosity and the willingness to use what has been discovered elsewhere are key attributes of today’s innovation leader. The Macintosh was born from Lisa.Leaders in innovation do not stigmatize failure but tolerate it and learn from it. Pharmaceutical companies spend a third of their research and development (R&D) budgets on externally sourced technologies and research partnerships. and wise companies have set up stage-gate “funnel innovation” processes to select the projects most likely to succeed. former research star at Philips. and (2) to partner and cooperate openly with the best partners available. once viewed as an intrinsic innovator. is in fact leveraging extensively on external technology: the iPod concept was originally brought in by an external consultant. When speaking about it. The Willingness to Proactively Search for External Technologies and Ideas Thousands of ideas lead to hundreds of concepts that generate tens of projects that give few market successes. so passion. it’s Franck’s project. and so on. so as to focus efforts and resources on the most likely winners. Good innovation leaders know how to mix their own ideas with outside technologies and then add their own twists. The Courage to Stop Projects. The most difficult decision to make for an innovation leader is to stop a project. Now is the time of “open innovation” or “network innovation. A company like Apple. a company Steve Jobs founded in the 1980s that almost failed and was later acquired by Apple.” or “extraordinary. only one part of leadership. There are always good reasons not to kill a project: it meets net present value (NPV) or return on investment (ROI) goals. .” Showing passion and enthusiasm for new products or features also generates passion for people around him. Mike Ramsay.This is.4 Have you ever attended a new product presentation by Steve Jobs? It is not a new product presentation. the iPhone was the response to the failure of Apple’s original music phone (developed with Motorola). Steve Jobs and his team of innovators provide multiple examples. he always uses words such as “amazing. the other one is starting things! But starting is easier than stopping in a research environment. the CEO wants it.5 Great innovation leaders know that they have to sacrifice projects more likely to fail as early as possible. and its recent computers are using technology from NeXT. The development of the “knowledge economy” has seen the spread of knowledge worldwide. As a project moves from the initial idea to the next phases. it might be the project that saves my bacon. It used off-the-shelf components combined with Thousands of ideas lead to hundreds of concepts that generate tens of projects that give few market successes. which was also brought in. and that means taking a risk Global Business and Organizational Excellence DOI: 10.1002/joe January/February 2010 49 . A High Degree of Passion proprietary ingredients and was designed to work with iTunes software.

1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence . but at the same time it is constrained by budgets.” An effective innovation leader ensures that the organization will secure its desired outcomes by creating win-win systems that reward the right behaviors and performance. etc. A usual way to deliver innovative solutions on a sustainable basis is to constantly fight against arrogance (we know better) and against complacence (business as usual. valuing small contributions. and Charles ‘Cork’ Walgreen III (former CEO of Walgreens) as examples of leaders who produced great results by showing an unwavering resolve—relentlessly sticking to their objectives—while putting the company first. Daniel Borel. Collins cites Darwin E. .”7 An effective innovation leader ensures that the organization will secure its desired outcomes by creating win-win systems that reward the right behaviors and performance.”6 A Talent for Attracting Innovators and Building and Steering Winning Teams Innovation leaders recognize that innovation is a team effort because it requires a number of various capabilities to make it happen. After a five-year study in eleven great companies. if you want to create new things. and innovation leaders understand that focus on innovation does not guarantee success. structure. Moreover. milestones. 50 January/February 2010 DOI: 10. soliciting feedback. given the nature of innovation. for me. you have to stop other things. and processes. Despite commitment. get them to work together. Colman M. . Smith (former CEO of Kimberly-Clark). r Ability to involve and support others: connecting with employees. establishing a collegial partnership with employees and serving employees in implementing change and innovation activities. is an atmosphere in which creativity can flourish. Empirical studies have shown that six sets of leadership skills and abilities positively influence organizations’ success rates in implementing change and driving innovation. resources. But. and incremental change (“small victories”). A creative environment. . r Ability to reward: “the things that get rewarded get done. . share the same language for the sake of the customer. These are not the kind of CEOs appearing regularly on TV talk shows or on the covers of magazines. In addition to those attributes. by manpower. the above characteristics are complemented by a group of common capabilities. r Skills and abilities. So. stopping projects asks for more leadership than starting projects. Mockler (former CEO of Gillette). Therefore. For successful innovation leaders. mentions that “the great leader is one who is able [. . They are also aware that past successes are not a recipe for future accomplishment. chairman of the board at Logitech. r Ability to promote teamwork and collaboration: innovation is a collective endeavor. which is critical to successful innovation and change implementation. these Level 5 leaders also have the talent to choose their successor and leave behind them a company that would be great without them. Jim Collins8 discovered that these companies had in common what he called “Level 5” leaders—CEOs who showed humility and will at the same time.] to build a team with people who have a different psyche of one versus the other. innovation leaders share the following common traits: r Will and humility. those rewards systems need to be flexible and gradual.because you may be stopping something of value. why bother?). and offering a high level of support facilitates employees’ involvement and commitment.9 r Ability to coach: this involves inspiring others to be at their best and remaining futureoriented. showing ambition not for themselves but for their company. there is still a role for serendipity in innovation.

Innovation Leadership and Organization Level The higher in the organization. those specialists or experts who build a lot of depth in their chosen field but have no breadth. flexibility. A recent empirical study10 has shown that the abilities to communicate appropriately and to motivate others have the most significant influence on a leader’s ability to effectively drive innovation and implement change. used the following metaphor: “We don’t want ‘potatoes.1002/joe January/February 2010 51 . stimulate new thinking. and at different stages of innovation.e. organizational commitment. But. individuals who combine a breadth of interests and knowledge with some depth in a number of areas. and resources).”11 The innovation leader must be like a mushroom: with a deep stem—that is. . . r Ability to communicate: communication is an effective tool for stimulating employees involved in innovation. . . such as Steve Jobs at Apple or Richard Branson at Virgin. for different strategies. We don’t favor ‘carrots’ either. r Ability to motivate: with innovation. and depend on the characteristics of the team members. This involves designing them so that members who have diverse background and skills can communicate. the more powerful the leader is to promote and drive innovation.e. a strong—technical— base and a large head able to reach out to other areas in order to comprehend all aspects of the new venture. and constructively challenge each other’s ideas. a leader’s ability to persuade and influence others to work in a common direction is imperative. These are the kind of managers to whom we entrust our critical innovation projects.Structuring workgroups to support collaboration is critical. and challenge existing paradigms. successful innovation leaders usually let other leaders grow around them. freedom. Examples abound. There is no doubt that the informal. because they choose to remain in their narrow area. Jeffrey Immelt. being humble. the innovation leader knows his/her limits. we argue that different types of innovation leadership are required at different levels of the organization. Therefore. which complements their spectrum of competencies with their own perspectives (see Exhibit 3 on page 52). fostering a motivating environment includes the ability to attract and retain individuals who are passionate about their work and intrinsically motivated. But innovation does not come only from the top: it can be initiated anywhere in an organization. This means organizing and fostering a motivating environment (i. freedom-oriented environment of most Silicon Valley firms is a critical motivation factor for their employees and a key success factor of their innovation capability. equity. Diversity fuels innovation. And the critical role of CEOs in directly influencing organizational innovation12 and leading the innovation process and culture13 has been demonstrated. The innovation leader must constantly share her vision to drive employees’ efforts toward the “right” direction.e. once asked to define the profile of innovative managers his company was trying to attract. r Specialist and generalist. . This includes giving feedbacks and reinforcement.’ i. driving the innovation efforts at GE. even at the lowest Global Business and Organizational Excellence DOI: 10. effective communication. A senior Japanese innovator at NEC. Different Types of Innovation Leadership Even though innovation leaders share common characteristics. Moreover. so that employees keep the focus and sustain their motivation. interact.’ i. at different phases of the organization’s evolution. where leaders at the top have inspired entire organizations. What we are looking for are ‘mushrooms. people who have a lot of breadth in terms of their functional or discipline coverage but no depth! . one that supports and rewards new ideas and develops job satisfaction. decided to bring innovation leaders from outside (especially in marketing) to fuel its company with new ideas..

challenging. considers that the CEO’s role is to lead the company to develop new models—business. where he constantly reaffirmed his encouragement to team members. Companies such as Nokia. and leadership models—that will drive innovation to fuel growth and profitability. as well as to show confidence in their ability to perform and meet the challenges. Henry Ford’s “a car for everyone” or Bill Gates’s “one PC on every desk” are archetypical examples of visions that are clear. r Driving: leading the people who make innovation happen. r Enabling: this includes the ability to listen. understand. and show empathy for the individuals involved.com. based on quality. Whirlpool’s former CEO Dave Whitwam once characterized his company’s global innovation strategy as “innovation from everyone and everywhere. was supported by extensive personal contacts and his presence at regular meetings or task forces (and sometimes on video tapes). The objective here is to enable employees to be innovative. Steve Jobs at Apple is an excellent example of leading by example. This involves being a role model by demonstrating one’s own involvement and energy. Johnson & Johnson. and Kimberly-Clark have established venture or advisory boards made up of the CEO and top-level managers. technology. safety. and credible. an innovative software company. the chairman and CEO at Salesforce. 52 January/February 2010 DOI: 10.1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence . which agglomerates the following set of attributes. motivating. This is the IDEA phase. and innovation. and companies such as 3M have shown that “bottom-up” innovation can sometimes be more effective than “top-down” innovation. whose role is to pull together internal and external knowledge and advise innovation teams by evaluating r Inspiring: articulating a vision that people can identify with and that can generate excitement and commitment.Exhibit 3. r Advising: guiding and coaching the teams and organizational units that are involved in innovation. meaningful. Paul O’Neill’s vision for Alcoa. Innovation Leader: A Mushroom levels. the primary role of an innovation leader is to be a sponsor for innovation.”14 Marc Benioff.15 At the highest level.

After securing seed capital.16 A charismatic style involves communicating with vision. those styles have limitations and risks. tap into ideas. Those ARMS are provided by other innovation leaders. guiding innovation efforts. One such recognition is the “Golden Step” award. innovation councils are involved in removing internal roadblocks and developing coordination processes across units. ideas are generated by individuals down in the organization and compete for resources. These characteristics correspond to what is generally called charismatic and strategic leadership styles. promotions. committing employees to innovation. committing employees to innovation. and technologies from the outside. involving more leaders in the organization. and an idea requires ARMS to be effectively implemented. a company that has institutionalized innovation. Companies such as BMW have established Thought Leader Resource Global Business and Organizational Excellence DOI: 10. and competencies are necessarily limited. Those may be technical champions (inventors or team leaders responsible for an invention) or business champions (representing the broader market or user perspective) or technological gatekeepers (collecting information from various sources and passing it on to the relevant people).17 In particular. In a bottom-up innovation pro- cess. create cross-group solutions teams. energizing. and accelerating innovation processes. At another cutoff. top management will need relays in the organization to champion competing ideas and challenge their own opinions. and recognition. a separate business unit is created and the product champion is given the opportunity to head it. or organize co-innovation with partner organizations for new solutions or systems. given if the new product is launched and reaches a revenue goal of $4 million worldwide. the product champion is allowed to assemble a venture team to develop the product. Moreover. and approving strategic investments. and enabling employees to be innovative. and accelerating innovation processes. A charismatic style involves communicating with vision.1002/joe January/February 2010 53 . other companies. At 3M. it is seldom sufficient. Thus. the leader’s time. At Hewlett-Packard. sponsors require champions. made up of managers from different business units and whose role is to pursue opportunities that lie between organizational boundaries and combine the competencies of various units. given to technical employees who have made major contributions to 3M through fundamental technical innovation. and provoke the disenfranchisement of next levels of management. But with innovation. energizing. (b) externally to bring external perspective inside. r Managing linkages: (a) internally to ensure that innovation-related activities in various parts of the organization are strategically aligned and coordinated. generate dependency or a reluctance to disagree. exerting the following attributes: r Advocating: promoting and defending a vision at a higher level. expertise. resources. a strong charismatic leader may create unrealistic expectations. energy. But with innovation. such as SRI International. Another recognition is the Carlton award. while a strategic style consists of using power to innovate. In a top-down innovation process. and enabling employees to be innovative. those styles have limitations and risks. r Rewarding:using rewards—both positive and negative—to encourage desired innovation behaviors. lower in the organization. and the solution to these problems requires a more instrumental and interactive18 style of leadership.opportunities. if driving innovation from the top is necessary. As the venture achieves certain revenue goals. while a strategic style consists of using power to innovate. product inventors are rewarded with seed capital that allows them to develop their new product ideas. They require champions to defend them and obtain the organization’s commitment and an allocation of resources. In other words. the team members receive raises.

innovation leadership must reside at both levels in the organization (see Exhibit 4). and direct individuals toward the vision) and ARMS (to ensure that people really do act accordingly).Exhibit 4. involving managers one or two levels down from the executive team. a programmer. while Nancy Snyder 54 January/February 2010 DOI: 10. But Dave Grossman. former CEO David Whitwam provided the vision of “Innovation for Everyone and Everywhere” and took on the role of “chief innovation officer. The second function necessitates a broader set of individuals and the extension of innovation leadership responsibilities toward the senior (operating) management team. create commitment. Innovation Leadership Roles: IDEA and ARMS Networks with key expert individuals—called “associates” in the case of BMW—from external laboratories. whose role involves evaluating projects and ensuring that each project has sufficient sponsorship. universities. he assembled a coalition that championed the new idea and brought it into practice. The first function is normally devoted to the CEO or—given the limitations of one single individual—to the top management. innovation leaders participate in innovation councils.1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence . and support. Frustrated by the previous situation. resources. consulting firms. Lou Gerstner (former IBM CEO) is generally credited with inspiring and driving the turnaround of IBM from a struggling hardware manufacturer toward a leader in IT services and e-business. At Whirlpool. Jeff Fettig (former COO and then CEO) was appointed as the chief architect of innovation. At Hewlett-Packard.” The top management team was in charge of driving the innovation efforts. requiring visible empowerment and adequate composition of the top management team. challenges. IBM and Whirlpool both illustrate this dual localization of leadership. research institutions. These innovation leaders are part of a knowledge network that can be tapped at any time on the latest technology trends and innovations. r Supporting: providing teams with the necessary resources and structuring tools to implement innovation. Innovation requires IDEA (to generate energy. and contract manufacturers. played a key leadership role. At IBM. and opportunities. Hence. and provides recommendations about specific issues.

r New systems.was the global vice president of innovation. and consulting services) or Nestle’s Nespresso.1002/joe January/February 2010 55 . Innovation Strategic Focus DEGREE Radical New “product”* System Incremental Improved “product”* Solution “Product”* With partners SCOPE * Here “product” means product. Four characteristics that work well for leaders of start-ups or small businesses can become liabilities as the company grows larger: Global Business and Organizational Excellence DOI: 10. They also managed linkages with the company’s divisions and monitored and managed the pipeline process. focusing on visioning. Part-time innovation mentors and full-time innovation consultants were fostering innovation. There are different typologies of innovation. They must be charismatic—leading innovation and leading the people who make innovation happen— and instrumental—creating an environment than encourages innovation. and habits have to be adapted as the organization evolves. and empowering. orchestrating. software. called regional vice presidents/general managers of innovation. supported by regional innovation boards (i-boards) and innovation teams (i-teams) and innovation mentors and consultants. or iTunes/iPod’s music distribution system require pragmatic architects. as well as overseeing funding of new ideas and ventures. true innovation leaders have a dual role. process. partnering. those different strategies require different types of focus. r New solutions need orchestra conductors who focus on interpreting. and integrat- Innovation leadership is not immutable: skills. But as the company gets larger. I-boards met monthly and were in charge of championing new projects. This defines four generic types of strategic focus20 for innovation (see Exhibit 5). The next level of management had a different role. incremental) and by its scope (product. system or business model). such as TiVO’s TV recording on demand. leading the innovation efforts across the company together with the top 25 officers in charge of driving and enabling innovation diffusion and new growth activities in their business units. and master planning. the “one-man show” reaches limitations. service. In start-ups and small companies. Examples abound about entrepreneurs and leaders who did great at starting a business but failed to adapt their leadership capabilities to the needs of their growing business. Arguably. process. style. Can Innovation Leaders Scale? Innovation Leadership and Organization’s Stage r Improved products need team sport coaches. removing barriers. and managing linkages across entities. focusing on challenging. and measuring. coaching and supporting would-be innovators.19 Different Leaders for Different Strategies Exhibit 5. or service ing. as was the case for the development of IBM Solutions (combining hardware. Howard Schulz at Starbucks or Steve Jobs at Apple are archetypical of this category of leaders. setting goals. New leadership roles were created. challenging. solution. I-teams were in charge of advocating new ideas and generating strategic insights. and helping them push their ideas forward. but essentially innovation can be characterized by its degree (radical vs. r New products require no-nonsense sponsors with a focus on nurturing.

followed by transactional leadership. in particular to their needs (e. senior executives travel around the world to visit Wal-Mart and competitors’ stores and meet with employees. But he does not interfere with their actions and rather offers trust and confidence that they will deliver the required results. When the organization gets larger. On Friday. customers.23 The leader should adapt his or her style to the individuals. then a participative leadership style is needed to get the employees involved.g. He regularly meets on some projects with his senior executives as well as his management team and workforce.1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence . they hold a videoconference with thousands of store managers where they share their observations and provide directions for the following week. listens to their reports. charisma.r Loyalty to comrades. research and actual practice have shown that in complex organizations and environments. autonomy) and abilities (e.. starting on Monday.22 Visionary leadership is necessary at the beginning of the innovation process. initiated a process to stay in touch with the real world.25 Innovation Leader or Innovation Leadership? Toward Embedded Leadership Leadership has long been viewed as a solitary creativity exercise. the executive chairman of Tata Motors. and individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci. But more recently. Blind loyalty to people who were at the start of the business can become a liability when it becomes large. 56 January/February 2010 DOI: 10. but the lack of a broader view may become a problem when the company grows. The success of future innovation depends on satisfying the diverse needs of employees. suppliers. This can be an asset when driving a vision for a radical innovation. R&D teams with dependent tasks and job autonomy): consideration. and Steve Jobs have been seen as innovation geniuses who generated and implemented breakthrough ideas on their own.21 Through listening and seeking input from others. shares his views and thoughts. Through listening and seeking input from others. For example. Innovation Leadership and Characteristics of Team Members Innovation leadership style may be sensible not only to the stage of team development but also to individual characteristics of team members. participative or consultative. Every week.. customers. Ratan Tata. r Working in isolation. successful leaders are able to change their habits and adapt their behavior as their company evolves. initiating. self-efficacy). Benjamin Franklin. Sam Walton. successful leaders are able to change their habits and adapt their behavior as their company evolves.24 and more than one style of leadership is effective for the functioning of teams. and suppliers. and coaching. back in the corporate offices.g. an individual leader is not sufficient to drive successful innovation efforts. five leadership factors are considered to be relevant for the efficiency of self-managing teams (e. their style of leadership must evolve during stages of innovation. has managed to keep an entrepreneurial management style while not engaging in microlevel operational details. Innovation Leadership and Stages of Innovation Even though innovation leaders must be able to perform both in the front-end and the back-end phases of innovation.. They gather direct information unfiltered by hierarchy. A pure “hands-on” style when the company is small becomes ill adapted when it becomes larger. Louis Pasteur. and at the end generally asks what support is required from him and the Board to complete the pending work successfully. and other external groups. they discuss what they have seen and on Saturday. r Single-mindedness. a huge Indian conglomerate. r Task orientation. the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc..g. the number and importance of stakeholders increases.

29 This new model of innovation and leadership is now embraced by many hightech companies. a leader in power protection devices for computers.1002/joe January/February 2010 57 .” where a series of leaders with complementary skills successively and seamlessly take the leadership role in the different phases of the development project. not competitive—if you never say ‘That’s silly’ when they’re thinking out of the box. in what is often called “network innovation. Deschamps26 gives the example of Tetra Pack’s “retortable carton” package project (named Tetra Recart) where. R&D department to take on an important position in France as a program manager in charge of a major development project. and John Chambers. The story reveals a problem of critical mass: an innovation leader alone—even at a high level—may not have the power and impact to profoundly change the culture of the local organization. Where the chain of leadership provides a solution to the “time” dimension of innovation. Their role is not to be the source of ideas but to encourage and champion ideas.r Critical mass. was confronted with the lack of innovation in their French R&D laboratory. a succession of technical. experimenting with new collaborative tools (McKinsey or Disney). r Collaborative innovation. When MGE UPS Systems. They sent a seasoned leader from their U. But soon it became clear that the new innovation leader was clueless in changing the processes and behaviors of the local team and that the conservative habits of the local organization were in fact starting to affect his own behavior.S. the performance of collaborative innovation may even be such that groups made up of “normal” people may outperform those made up of people with “the right stuff. business. providing infrastructure to enable collaboration (Procter & Gamble and the Centers for Disease Control). innovation leaders must orchestrate and integrate technologies.”31 At this level.”27 In this environment. “People have a lot of great ideas. networked innovation. r Chain of leadership. Deschamps advocates the concept of a “chain of leadership. it fails to properly address the “space” dimension in a world of open. ideas. they decided to inject a dose of leadership. it fails to properly address the “space” dimension in a world of open. The idea was that the drive and behavior of the newcomer would not only rub off on his own team but would also inspire the rest of the R&D organization. and people from various horizons. mentioned at a recent Fortune magazine conference that this change would lead to a 10-percent annual productivity increase for Cisco over the next decade. The solution was to send him back to the United States before it was too late. developing new collaborative processes. vice president of systems of IBM Research. And as in a sports team. At its best.” said Mark Dean. networked innovation. the innovative capability of individual people is Global Business and Organizational Excellence DOI: 10.28 Innovation becomes like a team sport where the innovation leader plays the role of captain: on the field and guiding the team players. Innovations such as Apple’s iPod have been developed by matching inhouse ingredients with outside technologies. if you give them space to do their thing and create an environment that is collaborative. Traditional companies may also up the benefits by raising awareness of the need to change. and building a culture of collaboration. over a ten-year time frame. Rather than relying on an individual alone. The traditional model of top-down leadership is replaced by network systems of elective actions.30 Where the chain of leadership provides a solution to the “time” dimension of innovation. in a successful innovation project the performance of the team is stronger than what could be achieved by the sum of the individual talents. the CEO of Cisco Systems. and executive champions worked together and in succession to provide an uninterrupted chain of leadership. r Embedded and transferable leadership.

show that leaders do not have to be identified. The operations director comments: “It doesn’t bother me that I don’t know in detail what’s going on.37 suggesting that in large firms only a relatively small proportion of innovation leaders is required. but at least learning and sharing that information for others to build on: improvement projects are everywhere. Innovation communities exist on physical products such as sports equipment (e. For those who may argue that embedding leadership is easier said than done. They demonstrate that the larger the group.K. . making movement decisions depends on social interactions among group members. But in complex organizations and environment. the model of Couzin et al. snowboards. the smaller the proportion of informed individuals needed to lead the group with a given accuracy.]. strategy. they highlight the importance of feedback mechanisms to reinforce the leaders36 and demonstrate the ability of a group to achieve a consensus for the majority option when differences are relatively small. And I trust them. They study groups where few individuals have pertinent information on where to go and how to get there (as is often the case in innovation). the model of Couzin et al..g. they know how to run improvement projects and they work as a team. Couzin et al. For those who may argue that embedding leadership is easier said than done. Couzin et al. Throughout the organization. Furthermore. they all have a clear idea of what we have to do [. and where informed individuals may differ in their preferred direction due to differences in experience or motivation. the smaller the proportion of informed individuals needed to lead the group with a given accuracy. This ultimate form of collaborative innovation32 is not specific to software or Internet companies. Using a simple model where individuals balance their preference to move in a given direction with their desire to maintain social interactions with group members.of second order: what drives creativity and innovation is the collaborative interaction of whoever wants to contribute.1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence . even at the top.g. Leadership is not in the hands of an individual or a group of individuals. They demonstrate that the larger the group. employees at all levels feel enabled to find and solve problems. And the ability to achieve a consensus when there is no major disagreement in the direction pursued is a guarantee of efficiency. They all know the strategy. This is especially relevant for innovation: feedback mechanisms such as other people’s opinions. and beta versions are necessary along the way to reinforce the leaders. mountain bikes. brings a positive note. Leadership can emerge as a function of information differences among members of a population and is therefore transferable. tests. surfboards) or surgical equipment (e. surveys. brings a positive note. Open Source software or Wikipedia are examples of innovations driven by voluntary collaborative participation. Innovation leaders share a common set of attributes and abilities. often experimenting with different solutions and frequently failing. and where the action of each is generating positive externalities for the others. where group members do not know which individuals have pertinent information. but is now embedded in the organization of the participants. and organizational 58 January/February 2010 DOI: 10.. Innovation Leadership: Diverse and Dispersed Stories about emblematic innovation leaders have masked that innovation is not in general the fact of one single individual. observe that in animal groups. clinical chemical analyzers). . leadership roles are diverse and must fit organization and innovation stage.”34 In a recent article35 inspired by leadership behavior in honeybee swarms.33 A small U. They’ve all been trained. company producing gauges and other measuring devices for the fuel tanks of filling stations has reached 80 percent market share on the European market.

Hoboken. & Duarte. (2006). and profit from it. Top management leadership is as much about generating dispersed (embedded) leadership within the organization as it is about direct involvement. and sustain innovation. & Shapiro. J. See note 2. (2004). D. Jung. 5. Cited by Skarzynski. Level 5 leadership. Angle. 10. G. & Tushman. measure it.38 Notes 1. & Chow. 19. 6(2). See note 2. Harvard Business Review. J. Dixon. Entrepreneurship and innovation: How leadership style makes the difference. 76(9). there is no successful innovative company without a committed CEO (twelfth law of innovation). Innovation leaders: How senior executives stimulate. (2006). C. 3. How to kill creativity. 79(1). even at the top.. D. 613–636). 563–576). For a description of Whirlpool’s innovation infrastructure see Snyder. C. Interview with J. Making innovation work: How to manage IT. J. Companies wishing to implement sustained innovation should set up a pool of diverse innovation leaders at different levels of the organization who can offer varying leadership roles at different organizational and innovation stages and suit the evolving requirements of the innovation strategy. Epstein... New York: Harper & Row. Innovation to the core: A blueprint for transforming the way your company innovates. pp. Towards understanding the direct and indirect effects of CEO’s transformational leadership on firm innovation. 15. (2008). Beyond the charismatic leader: Leadership and organizational change. These 11 good-to-great companies were selected for their great performance out of the 1. D. for example. Gilley. R. (1989). NJ: Wiley. Van de Ven. L. Deschamps. 153–169. Human Resource Development Quarterly. Tushman & P. controlling and rewarding. MA: Elsevier. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Vikalpa. 77–87. MIT Sloan School of Management. Cambridge.1002/joe January/February 2010 59 . 67–76. Global Business and Organizational Excellence DOI: 10. In M. T. P. 135–149. P.. D. The “tolerance rule” is one of 3M’s “golden rules” of innovation: employees are guaranteed to keep their position in the event of failure of their project. A.435 companies that appeared in the Fortune 500 from 1965 to 1995. 19. A single individual or a few key leaders. & Gilley. B. & Shelton. 7. P. J. 31(1). H. Upper Saddle River. (2008). Managing strategic innovation and change (2nd ed. & M. (2008). H. 19(2). M. “Technology Strategy” course. 107–115. Wu.). See. Bhattacharyya. 9. 582–594. Hostager. J.). 17. T.. Deschamps analyzes four dimensions but ends up with those four strategic thrusts. L. Strategic innovation: Embedding innovation as a core competency in your organization. R. A.. International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development. steer.. (2003). G. J. A. Nadler. Insight in innovation: Managing innovation by understanding the laws of innovation. Ibid. 8. Cited by Davila. 20... Verloop. L. cooperating and developing additional leadership (see note 16).. NJ: Wharton School Publishing. Leadership and innovation: A longitudinal process view. In A. & Gibson. L. 13. (1998).. MA: Harvard Business Press. (2001). Leadership for sustainable innovation. For Verloop. A. Henderson. L. The Leadership Quarterly.. (2008).level. Anderson (Eds. 6. Leadership needs to be conceived as something that happens across functions and levels and evolves along the organization’s and the innovation strategy’s life cycle. S. M. See note 2.. should not be expected to reunite all those abilities. 11. 14. 12. T. Harvard Business Review. P. Scott Poole (Eds. while an interactive style involves empowering. (2007). And the primary role of innovation leaders should be to create a climate for innovation. N. New York: Oxford University Press. T. Bossink. Manz. 21. P. Bastien. Collins. Characteristics of leadership effectiveness: Implementing change and driving innovation in organizations. W. Deschamps. C. 18. An instrumental leadership style includes structuring. Amabile. T. W. Research on the management of innovation: The Minnesota studies (pp. Boston. 4. 22. M. 16. 2. (2004). R.

1002/joe Global Business and Organizational Excellence . UK: Wiley. I. D. individual characteristics and the functioning of teams.. Taken from Tidd. Nature. Democratizing innovation. 36. S. Franks. 25.23. Germany: Publicis Corporate Publishing and Wiley.. J. with a focus on the scope of the firm. 37. S. Rodriguez. (2007). K. Stocker. Honeybee ecology: A study of adaptation in social life. D. J. 27. & Todd. (2005). 513–516. Bel’s research interests are in the area of the theory of organizations.. & Voelpel.. The authors note that in honeybee swarms. and MGE UPS Systems. [1985]. 16. J. Roland Bel is a professor of strategy and innovation at the Euromed School of Management in Marseille. Ibid. international strategy.. 71–74. Network innovation is not limited to the high-tech industry: pharmaceutical companies or consumer goods companies such as Procter & Gamble practice it. High involvement innovation. (2006). Dr. J. 321–328. H. R. & Solomon. Ibid. & Levin. 12. J. Chichester.. I. 60 January/February 2010 DOI: 10. Erlangen. Krauze.. Chichester. J. 30. A path goal theory of leadership effectiveness. pp. it reinforces their preference. T. M. T. Effective leadership and decision-making in animal groups on the move. He has 20 years of international management experience in Europe. Couzin. 433. Sometimes also called “high-involvement innovation. House. 1141–1151.. and the impact of innovation strategies and organization on firm performance. C. R.. NJ: Princeton University Press.” See Bessant. Meeting the innovation challenge: Leadership for transformation and growth.). Strategic management in the innovation economy. R. 24. MA: The MIT Press. S. and innovation. In Davenport. 31. & Pavitt. (2003). 35. J. 34. M. UK: Wiley. Administrative Science Quarterly.. the United States. and Asia. N. 2. 28. (2005). 33. hybrid organizations. Schneider Electric. A.. only 5 percent of individuals can guide the group to a new nest site (from Seeley. market and organizational change (3rd ed. Princeton. 32. Managing innovation: Integrating technological. von Hippel. When informed individuals find themselves moving in a similar direction to their preferred direction. D. Ibid. J. Hoboken. 26. Leibold. (2006). See note 2 (Chapter 8). Cambridge. Looise. Bessant. 3–13. Innovations. D. (1971). 38. Fissher. France. International Journal of Human Resource Management. Leadership and innovation: Relations between leadership. Isaksen. NJ: Wiley. Leadership and innovation in a networked world. E. 29. O. D. otherwise it reduces it. (2001). Hewlett-Packard. for companies such as ESSO. A. (2005).. & de Jong.

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