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In today’s complex business environment it’s tough to be a great leader. The ask is big. We’re told to be visionary, to inspire, to know ourselves deeply, to understand the desires and motivations of our team members, to be decisive, to delegate, to collaborate, to develop talent and, of course, to innovate.

The trick is to focus on the things that will make the biggest difference. So, when it comes to innovation, here are a few tips for making sure you’re setting your team up for success:

  • Believe in your team – sounds obvious but the trick is to make sure that you place trust in your team to pursue your shared innovation mission. Set clear expectations and trust them with the challenge to make real change.  And then make sure you give the autonomy to pursue the challenge.
  • Commit to doing innovation yourself  – we know from the research by Professor Jeff Dyer at Brigham Young University, that getting involved in innovation in a really hands-on way is one of the most powerful things a leader can do to foster innovation. This could be getting out of the office to talk to customers or even inviting speakers in from different industries to challenge the conventional thinking within your team.
  • Hire people with a learning orientation – when you’re recruiting look for people who are driven by constant learning – even if it compromises performance.  Sounds shocking I know, but remember that people with a learning orientation will be motivated to develop themselves and to solve complex problems. Typically they’re also more comfortable with failure – which means they will often be willing to suggest more creative solutions.
  • Build a skill base within the team – We don’t expect people to “just know” how to analyse a P&L, set a patient’s broken ankle or construct a new building. So why would we expect that they know how to innovate? It’s important to give people the right skills and capabilities so that best practice innovation can thrive.  Most people assume that being creative is something you’re born with.  But the research tells a different story. We know from research that only 30% of creativity is genetic – which means that, with the right training, the potential uplift in your innovation effort is significant.