Lead People, Manage Processes … What About Innovation?

We still struggle to understand whether innovation is process, people, mindset, or some combination of all of those.

We know innovation is a lot about exploratory action and leadership that empowers action. There’s still room for managing innovation and risk, particularly in corporate settings. There’s also a lot written about leadership vs. management — and leading vs. managing people, processes, and businesses. Some of that, when viewed through the lens of innovation, looks like this:

Innovators – Solve complex problems
Innovation Managers – Control complexity in development

Innovation Leaders – Transform companies, industries, and ecosystems

Innovators – Develop new products and services
Innovation Managers – Deliver to the roadmap
Innovation Leaders – Create vision, strategy, and roadmap

Innovators – Create the future they conceive
Innovation Managers – Predict the future based on trends
Innovation Leaders – Prepare for the unpredictable future

Innovators – Deploy their expertise to resolve situations
Innovation Managers – Organize, staff, and manage resources
Innovation Leaders – Align expertise and offerings with markets

Innovators – Create new outcomes
Innovation Managers – Prevent negative outcomes
Innovation Leaders – Promote positive outcomes

Innovators – Be creative and explore
Innovation Managers – Control creativity and experimentation
Innovation Leaders – Empower people to experiment and learn

Innovators – Develop their expertise
Innovation Managers – Assess the expertise and fill the gaps
Innovation Leaders – Proactively fill gaps with the required expertise

Innovators – Build relationships of value
Innovation Managers – Restructure to accomplish goals
Innovation Leaders – Create relationships to be highly effective

Innovators – Do it the way they know best
Innovation Managers – Do it the right way
Innovation Leaders – Do the right things

Innovators – Defend their viewpoint
Innovation Managers – Sell solutions to get everyone on board
Innovation Leaders – Acknowledge and surface healthy conflict

Innovators – Collaborate, learn, and produce
Innovation Managers – Motivate but control collaborative practices
Innovation Leaders – Inspire collaboration and learning

Innovators – Strive for excellence
Innovation Managers – Maintain a Center of Excellence
Innovation Leaders – Build a Network of Excellence

Innovators – Want to feel important
Innovation Managers – Want to look important
Innovation Leaders – Make others feel important

Innovators – Compete and collaborate as required
Innovation Managers – Create competitive strategies to win
Innovation Leaders – Create collaborative strategies for win-win

Innovators – Focus on the Innovation Value Chain
Innovation Managers – Focus on the Innovation Framework
Innovation Leaders – Focus on the Innovation Purpose and Mindset

An innovation-focused organization needs all three roles — leaders, managers, and innovators. I emphasize the term role, not title. I’ve seen CTOs actively engaged in technical discussions. I’ve seen engineers creating a vision and collaborating with competitors for a win-win.

A successfully innovative organization allows a bit of all three roles across all of its staff members – from technicians to the C-suite. Through working meetings and casual chats, in person or virtual, that crossover promotes sound teamwork, transparency, integrity, and internal empathy — all of which are required to be adaptive and agile.

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