Innovation and the perception gap

The world’s megarich and uber-influential are now back from their annual sojourn in snowy Davos after grappling with European debt, the future of capitalism and the widening gap between rich and poor. Reports from the five-day meeting say global inequality made it onto the agenda thanks largely to the Arab Spring, the Occupy movements and other protests signalling turmoil in the ranks. Innovation also featured, with thought leaders ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to IDEO’s Tim Brown suggesting different ways to make it happen. If only transformation were so easy. New research by global leadership development firm, DDI, shows an alarming gap between the idea and the practice of innovation where it counts most: business. DDI asked 513 leaders around the world to rate their own skill level on 20 separate innovation behaviours. “If you believe these leaders, we have nothing to worry about,” says DDI’s Rich Wellins. “But before we get too happy, a totally different picture is painted when we ask 514 employees the very same questions about their leaders. In almost every one of the 20 items there is a 20 to 30 per cent agreement gap between leaders and employees. In other words, the majority of employees feel their leaders are not doing a very good job at all at inspiring a culture of innovation.” Closing that gap leads DDI’s recommendations, along with taking a top-down and bottom-up approach. Releasing the levers of control enough to embed innovation activity across the organisation might be challenging, but a global project researching management 2.0 principles sees it as inevitable. “If we want organisations that are resilient enough to change as fast as the world is changing, inventive enough to imagine a whole new way to create value, inspiring enough to invite and unleash the best gifts of employees (and other stakeholders), and mindful enough to find a way to win without others (the community, the planet) having to lose, we can’t just scrounge around for best practices,” says project leader, Polly LaBarre. “We have to cast off the ruling (and stifling) ideology of control, power, and growth-at-all-costs for a new ideology.”

 

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