How Great Leaders Accelerate Innovation Through Meaning

accelerate innovation

Why the need to accelerate innovation?

“No company in the future will be in a position to succeed if it squanders the imagination of its employees.”

Professor Gary Hamel, co-founder of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) and the M-Prize: Innovating Innovation Challenge.

Hamel says innovation is one of the most important and difficult challenges facing business around the world.

At the same time, innovation is a vital capability for companies because it is the:

> only insurance against irrelevance
> only antidote to margin-crunching competition
> only way you can out-perform a dismal economy
> only way to build enduring customer loyalty

Yet, he says, “I don’t think there’s one company in a hundred that makes innovation the work of every single employee, every day.”

He identifies three reasons why organizations aren’t truly innovative from top to bottom:

  1. People throughout the organization (front-line employees, administrative assistants, people in the centers, tech support staff, people in the warehouse, etc.) have not been given training in how to be innovative.
  2. There is no facility for people with ideas to get the time off from their current responsibilities to develop their ideas. Nor is there any available “experimental capital” that could help them prototype their innovations.
  3. Employees don’t have a clear understanding of what is expected of them or what is in it for them.

We would add a fourth point to Professor Hamel’s list:

4. Employees don’t share a common goal or purpose that inspires innovative thinking.

What’s missing in most companies is a compelling Purpose Beyond Profit.

When a company’s employees all share a common goal, purpose, and ambition built around making the world a better place, the opportunities for innovation abound.

A Purpose Beyond Profit that is folded into your brand strategy focuses everyone on the meaningful outcomes of the work they do.

This desire to do good brings them closer to those who are impacted by the company. These insights prompt them to focus deeply on the hopes, needs, values, and aspirations of the people the company serves.

Valuable, relevant, and practical innovations come as employees extend empathy to others, draw on their personal desire to create meaningful outcomes, and benefit from the company’s training, time, and financial support and clear expectations.

A company with a strong purpose inspires, stimulates, and enables the innovation it needs to thrive in the 21st Century.

The benefits go beyond profit as well. Meaning-based innovation creates a Meaningful Workplace in which employees feel that what they do matters: to themselves, to others, and to society.

As Professor Hamel says, “When companies innovate, you find that not only does market value go up, customers are happier, and so on, but most of all, it changes the human spirit of work. We were born to create as human beings. We can’t help but to create. But we need the skills, the tools, the environment, and so on. When you give people permission, when you allow them to bring those states of energy to the fore, you also create an organization in which there’s an unbelievable amount of excitement. The bubble of human excitement is always there with people thinking and dreaming up new ideas.”

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco branding agency.

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