Innovation Requires Leadership

The last 25 years have put enormous pressure on Aerospace companies to improve efficiencies and cut costs. As a result, many companies embraced “Six Sigma” and “Lean” in an attempt to reduce waste and become more profitable. The companies that succeeded were rewarded with increased profits and, in many cases, increased market share.

Today, the business world is even more challenging than it was in the 1980’s and, while there are still great opportunities, there are greater risks. This networked, crowdsourced, global business world, demands much more than efficiency and cost cutting to succeed and grow. In fact, the companies that thrive are those that foster innovation. So CEOs in every domain are quick to point out that they intend to focus on innovation.

That is easier said than done. Innovation cannot be “legislated”, and it doesn’t often happen “spontaneously” – even in organizations with talented people and a strong technology base. Innovation requires leadership.

More than ever, the role of leaders is to create an environment that encourages people to bring forward new ideas; a place where contributions are recognized and experimentation is supported. The environment that best supports innovation is a “learning friendly ecospace” that encourages people to “try a bunch of new things and see what works”, as Tom Peters suggested over 20 years ago. In this environment, creativity is encouraged and there is a balance between the need for innovation and execution – delivering on our commitments.

This year, you and I need to encourage innovation without sacrificing efficiency or accountability. We can all be innovative as leaders, in the factory, the lab, the office, and on line, regardless of what “department” we lead. In fact, we MUST because innovation is important for EVERY part of every business. What will you do to encourage innovation this year?

What will you do to encourage innovation this week?