Ideas: Take it from the top

The leader’s influence on innovation is incalculable. Without genuine commitment from the top, any innovation effort is doomed to fail. When the leader – and leadership team – are onboard, the potential benefits are huge. “Leaders who embrace the dynamic tension between creative disruption and operational efficiency can create new models of extraordinary value,” IBM’s recent creative leadership study found. An illustrative example is SWIFT, the global provider of secure interbank messaging and money transfer systems. As innovation expert Steve Denning outlines, SWIFT’s bold open-source innovation efforts are all the more inspiring given its traditionally conservative customer base. “SWIFT has a mainly inside-out orientation of delivering services to customers,” Denning says. “With the support of the CEO (Lazaro Campos), the innovation initiative has made major advances in establishing a significant innovation operation with a strong outside-in orientation. This has required a combination of considerable courage, openness, creativity and persistence.”  Like SWIFT, Philips Healthcare is a global corporation with all the leadership challenges inherent in large, matrix-driven organisations. Like SWIFT, Philips is led by a chief executive – Teddy Frank – with the energy, intellectual curiosity and courage to push through change. “I find it is important to use multiple sources to get great ideas; workplace, websites, webinars, articles and blogs forwarded by colleagues, casual conversations, ‘think tanks,” Frank says. “I also seek out learning for personal growth. I think this is the most important part of being an ‘idea hunter’ – to be constantly in a learning state of mind.”

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