By Michael D’Antonio
Innovation leadership sounds lofty and self-important. It sounds like breaking new ground and fleshing out new territory. In truth, innovation leadership has more to do with borrowing, stealing, co-opting and patching things together. Adaptation from one use or perspective, to another. True innovations are very rare and should not necessarily be the goal for any given organization. More importantly, an organization needs to be smart and savvy enough to collect and curate innovation – particularly innovations that are in existence that do not exist in your given sector. For example, an app for taxi cabs. Uber did not innovate the first ever geo-targeted app. Instead in curated that technology and imported it into a highly inefficient market that was devoid of useful technology. In context – Uber looks like a miracle. Out of context – it is not rocket science.
Zappos uses off the shelf technologies and API’s that, in combination, create their very own service experience. That is, they didn’t innovate from the ground up – they cherry picked platforms and partnerships in order to curate a bespoke service experience that is quintessentially Zappos.
The real skill in today’s innovation leadership has less to do with making and more to do with partnering and importing into your unique marketplace. That means taking lots of meeting, reading lots of blog posts and trend articles, attending conferences outside of your industry, and living a rich, full existence. Essentially being intellectually curious and completely open. The goal is to bump into innovations, across all applications, and adapt them to your organization or use. Make them better, stronger and faster. Spend less time creating innovations and more time curating them. Yes – steal them. It’s okay. While it is a far less romantic notion, the innovation leadership of a company is less like a noble inventor and more like a crafty mechanic bolting on existing parts to create something all together new and useful.
But to truly innovate in this context, you must learn other perspectives, trades and industries. Pick a sector that is interesting to you. Bring some of their ideas into your domain. Go to conferences and conventions for which you have no acumen. Watch channels you don’t like. Read content you don’t like. Engage with those who have a different opinion. Hire talent that has never worked in your industry.
All of this organically fosters smart, innovative thinking.
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