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Leading on Innovation


Our top tips – leaders of innovation…

  • focus minds by saying where innovation is needed
  • are approachable to staff so they can hear ‘the next big idea’
  • go back to the shop floor to see what customers and staff are saying
  • reflect on the conditions within which staff and partners work: what might be holding innovation back?
  • are decisive and use their authority to remove blockers to new ideas getting off the ground
  • support and defend experiments – explain why and explain how, provide top-cover

For more top tips, read this great article on Lifehack.

How important is leadership?

The importance of leadership in creating a culture that supports innovation amongst staff and partner organisations cannot be overstated. A recent cross-sectoral survey of the drivers for innovation in organisations ranked ‘Leaders modelling behaviours that encourage innovation’ as one of the top three catalysts for innovation.

People respond more to what people do rather than what they say. The rumour mill is often the best communications channel in an organisation and a story doing the rounds about how a senior manager backed a new idea or bucked ‘business as usual’ could be a powerful way of starting a buzz.

The pro-innovation leader focuses creative energies by saying where innovation is needed, generates positive energy and optimism and seeks out and shares ideas. It is no coincidence that some of the most innovative organisations have flat management structures and some of the lowest leadership distances in the world.

A leader of innovation recognises that some of the best ideas will be from those who are closest to the action on the ground:

A leader of innovation will also strive to make connections beyond their organisation and will recognise that collaboration can bring new insights and opportunities in solving complex problems. Robin Hambleton, Professor of City Leadership at University of the West of England, offers a ‘place based’ model of leadership between elected politicians, executive leaders and community leaders to reframe priorities and take a more systemic approach to tackling local challenges.

By creating opportunities for collaboration a leader can bring together different perspectives for finding new approaches to tackling stubborn problems.

Leading Successful Service Design

This online guidance framework is intended primarily as an overview for senior managers from all professions, who are leading teams taking on complex projects.

It offers a stage-by-stage approach to service design, with critical questions to ask, and the key tools you might use, such as checklists and templates.

This framework is not supposed to be slavishly followed, but rather is intended to provide a useful framework that can be adapted as appropriate to a wide variety of projects, activities, challenges and outputs.

What next?