In exploring the ideas behind our vision of Innovating beyond Borders, one word keeps coming to the centre in so many conversations. That word is Ambition. Simply asking the question ‘What is your innovation ambition?’ has brought a number of responses to the fore.
At times, it triggers curiosity, and a rich discussion follows, of what fuels our ambition, what we see is needed to be solved for, in society, and where we feel we can make a contribution, with purpose. At other times, it brings about introspection, of what we envision our team or our organisation could become, and the role of innovation in driving such purposeful outcomes. Several times, I have seen it bring a sense of frustration, of how innovation is not recognised by fellow executives, seen as a distraction from what is seen as a tough environment and the day-to-day battles which ensue.
In Managing Your Innovation Portfolio, authors Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff make an important point, that we must approach our innovation portfolio as an integrated whole. There is no magic answer to what our ambition should be, but a delicate balance must be maintained between what role innovation should have at the core… what innovation can contribute to spaces adjacent to our current organisation, and where truly transformative innovation is called for.
The balance can differ from industry to industry and certainly from one distinct organisation to another. It also shifts over time and recognizing when to shift the balance towards another form of innovation is truly an act of leadership.
Creating and sustaining an organisation capable of doing that, shifting the balance towards what is needed, what is called for, and setting a clear ambition to our innovation efforts, bring greater cohesion to the leadership of an organisation. It creates a context, an environment for others, both within the organisation and outside of it, to contribute and recognise how their hard work is at the heart of where the organisation is heading. This is where people become willing to invest in the hard work that innovative problem solving requires. The return on innovation is often decided here, by acts of leadership.
Have a good weekend everyone!
Saar Ben-Attar (A Connector Beyond Limits)
“Every person in your group, whether that’s a small team or a large corporation, contains a slice of genius. Your task as leader is to create a place where all those slices can be elicited, combined, and converted into collective genius.”