How leaders can accelerate innovation in their organisation in the new year

Real innovation addresses problems on the table with a solution-based approach that is inside out, wherein it starts from the ‘why’ or the purpose.
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Innovation is inarguably one of the most overused words in corporate spaces in the modern day. In fact, it has been at the centre of attention across boardrooms, leadership forums, media dialogues, and creative fraternities.

However, it continues to be widely misunderstood and misconstrued as organisations and leaders view it as that extra dash of novelty, which can be used as a currency to carve a niche. True that it can always help one stand out and break through the clutter, but for that one needs to deep dive to understand the true essence of what constitutes innovation.

True innovation is about understanding why organisations and leaders do what they do. It is about clarity of purpose. Once organisations and leadership get a vivid and clear understanding of the ‘why’ that is their purpose of existence, they have truly arrived.

Most of us understand and know what we do and some of us also know how we do it. But when it comes to the why, we are often lost. And therein lies the difference between real innovators and those that superficially adopt innovation.

Innovation is way beyond innovative technology, strategy, or communication. While all these are good to have, real innovation addresses problems on the table with a solution-based approach that is inside out, wherein it starts from the ‘why’ or the purpose.

In fact, organisations that have created history and made a difference to how we live our lives through innovative offerings are often the ones that have ventured beyond the obvious of strategy and tactics and introspected deep enough to know why they exist.

This is even more relevant in today’s volatile business landscape where unprecedented challenges, coupled with consumer and media vigilance keep organisations on their toes. Add to that the snowballing momentum of the social media. Leadership today is a complex equation and standing in good stead demands innovation at every juncture.

But to be able to grapple with all of this, leadership across organisations needs to be willing to walk inside out and navigate the ‘why’ before they get to the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ and that shall eventually be the real game changer. To summarise, innovation is about the leaps an organisation takes to go beyond routine steps.

Innovation in leadership

Innovation sets leadership apart from management. We have great managers from the best of B-schools across the globe. But leaders are far and few for they often have a strong sense of purpose and whatever they do resonates with the ‘why’ quotient.

In fact, a true leader has the potential to galvanise millions of followers who voluntarily believe in the true purpose of their leader and are willing to do all that it takes to further the cause. This is where leadership win hands down to management and organisations with legacy of innovation often get this equation right.

Innovation in approach

Innovation is no more a good thing to do or have, it is imperative, and businesses that realise and internalise it are here to stay and evolve. But it also places tremendous weightage on leadership. Culture breeds innovation and incorporating innovation as part of everyday work life and making it part of the organisational culture is a responsibility that rests with leaders.

When implementing innovation, which naturally seeps in change, resistance is bound to swing in. And once again, understanding and communicating the ‘why’ before the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ can make a world of difference. It persuades people to believe and buy into the change that a proposed innovation can bring in.

But interestingly, leadership that chooses to drive innovation and advocates fostering an innovation focused culture needs to primarily have unflinching conviction in the cause or the purpose they decide on.

As 2021 steers out of massive disruptions, an innovative approach to business models is bound to auger well. The rise of phygital, which is a perfect blend of physical and digital, shall chart the future for innovation in business discourses.

Similarly, with changing lifestyle, newly evolved habits, and changing consumption patterns, innovation in product strategy and service offerings will continue gaining precedence. Tweaking product portfolios to complement the ephemeral tastes of the neo-consumer is therefore as much a part of the innovation journey that brands need to undertake as they look at the overall assimilation of innovation.

However, organisations that wish to see the checkered flag and emerge as innovation champions need to remember the ground rules and ask the difficult question of “why” at every stage.

Innovation in engagement

Innovation as a concept must touch every aspect of the business. And when we look at that one common thing that cuts across all industries and geographies, it is the people. An innovative engagement strategy can work wonders, especially at a time when most people have been wandering in unchartered waters and navigating uncertainties like never before.

Amidst all the chaos of COVID-19 fuelled disruptions, the need and relevance of innovation in engagement is etched stronger than ever before. Organisations that were swift to adopt innovative engagement practices were the ones to have seamlessly transitioned into the new normal with infectious levels of positivity and commitment.

The lack of human connection can be unnerving and that is where the need for innovative engagement, such as virtual open forums and town halls or such similar platforms that allow for creative expression for people, kick in. One can take it to the next level by reimagining picnics and games or events and migrating them to virtual platforms, surpassing physical restrictions.

Motivational sessions and stress buster sessions need to be mandatory in a world that is often debating on mental health and its associated issues. The need of the hour is to walk the talk and not just limit innovation to policy blueprints.

What underlines the success of true engagement is to get people to identify with the purpose and belief an organisation harbors, which in turn can catapult an organisation to unimaginable success.

Remember, employees are your most significant brand ambassadors and when they truly believe and identify with your “why”, the world is truly your stage.

Innovation in recognition

Recognition is a powerful emotion that can propel one to stretch to the boundaries and strive for innovation and creativity in their daily tasks. In fact, a lot of research testifies that innovative ways of recognition and gratification can be real game-changers for organisations looking to ace the innovation challenge and create a stirring impact.

It is of merit for organisations and their leadership to encourage a culture of virtual contests or structured recognition programmes to spark the fire of motivation and make way for some healthy competition among employees.

For instance, at Modi Enterprises, Meraki Awards, a much-awaited virtual event, is one such practice across our companies to recognise the significant contributions by people across levels. And what sets us apart here is while selecting people, our key focus on “why” takes precedence over the “how” and the “what”.

Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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