This month we focus on Innovation. Wikipedia defines innovation simply as a "new idea, device, or method." However, innovation is often also viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more-effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models.
How do we help foster innovation? We look at it from three perspectives: Amy Edmonson from Harvard Business School; Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, the company often described as one of the most innovative on the planet; and a research study on Ambidextrous Leadership and Team innovation.
But let’s look at ourselves a moment. How can we challenge ourselves to listen and work in new ways? If you were to innovate your day, to think of better solutions and to design your day, what would it look like?
In our October webinar, Amy Edmondson, the Novartis Professor at Harvard Business School, explored how to usher in system changes that transform human experience. Her case study looked in real time at Living PlanIT – the group building the first Smart City, from scratch. With this study she’s been able to explore obstacles that got in the way of complex collaboration. What she learned translates into ways coaches can help inter-organization learning and collaborations. This work applies to most organizations – people tend to trust others in their vertical chain (in general 84%) e.g. their manager, reports. But, far fewer trust people outside their unit (59%). Today’s challenges require a greater level of collaboration and helping leaders bridge to other groups is a key skill, and an important one to identify and build in those we coach. If you missed this IOC webinar with Amy, you can read about her work in Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation.
At first glance it might seem a stretch to suggest that reading Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, written by the CEO of IDEO is a great resource for coaches. Many of us have heard it is key to “co-design” our coaching engagements, but how deeply do we get the design side? IDEO’s creative excursions into understanding customer experience and translating it into good business at times is radical. They find ways to get into the skin and the world of a client. To help design cars for the oldest baby boomers they created an “aging suit.” It looks like something an astronaut might wear. When you put it on, it restricts your movement to what an 80-year-old person experiences getting in and out of a car, reaching for the seatbelt etc., and then rapidly prototyping a different design to the car and trying again.
How deeply do you get inside the daily experience of your client and try on their world? If you actually were the CEO of a multinational trying to decide where the market is going, what would you be feeling, or thinking or managing that set of decisions? If you actually were struggling to control your diabetes symptoms while managing a busy family, what would your everyday experience look like? Enjoy following IDEO’s voyages into customer-centricity and try on new ideas of how to apply their work to your coaching practice.
Tim describes: Innovation = Inspiration + Ideation + Implementation.
Seems quite parallel to a coaching process, doesn’t it?
Science to Practice: Ambidextrous Leadership and Team Innovation. This research study examines the role of team leaders on innovation. Complex challenges require complex leadership. The authors, Zacher and Rosing, looked at 33 teams. Leaders who were high on what they call Exploration (opening up possibilities) AND Exploitation (execution) had teams that were more innovative. Being high on one or the other wasn’t key; being high on both was the critical factor.
Interestingly, this research aligns with the concepts described in Change by Design – that divergent thinking and convergent thinking are necessary for innovation along with the capacity to break things down analytically, and then synthesize back to an overview. The ideal balance of these opposites allow a creative idea to become reality. I hope pulling these threads together will help provide some great guidelines for your coaching.
Warmly, Carol Kauffman, PhD., Executive Director, Institute of Coaching
Ambidextrous leadership and team innovation Zacher, H., & Rosing, K. (2015). Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 36(1), 54-68.
Summary by Carol Kauffman, Founder / Executive Director, Institute of Coaching
Zacher and Rosing have provided us with some excellent research with very clear applications to coaching. Their research is the first empirical study of Rosing’s theoretical work on Ambidextrous Leadership.
Ambidextrous leadership is when leaders are able to engage in behaviors that open up possibilities, encourage mistakes, and take risks. But, to predict innovation these same leaders also need to be strong on implementation by carefully tracking progress, holding people accountable and having them adhere to rules. One or the other was not enough.
Here’s how it fits into the larger leadership literature which then shows the unique contribution it makes. There is a substantial research literature on Transformative Leadership, and its relationship to increased performance and innovation. Transformative leadership has 4 subcategories: embodying and expecting high standards; communicating a vision and recalling positive events; encouraging creativity; and caring for the individual followers.
These researchers take the work further. In this study transformational leadership did predict innovation. But then, when you added Ambidextrous leadership into the equation, it predicted innovation even more.
How can we coach toward greater innovation in teams? First, learn more about the behaviors involved in Transformative and Ambidextrous Leadership. Knowing the data can support your efforts to both market your practice and deliver better service. In today’s complex, rapidly changing market, innovation is a crucial skill and overlooking how to foster it can put your leader in peril.
From leadership to personal and wellness coaching. The concepts here are as relevant to personal and wellness coaching as to the world of work. We all need to be agile, to open up to possibilities and then to know when to tip the balance and move toward making decisions, throwing out options and moving forward. For those of us familiar with the GROW model of coaching, the moving from the Goal (vision of the future) Reality, then opening up several Options and then choosing the Way forward, the research aligns quite well. Think about yourself as a coach. Are you equally strong in opening up options and exploring as you are in narrowing down and helping your client turn hopes and dreams into reality?
Transformational Leadership + Ambidextrous Leadership = Innovation
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