Lead Innovators, Don't Manage Innovation

APRIL 07, 2015
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Chief Innovation Officers are growing like weeds. Some think their job is to manage innovation. They might as well quit, since managing innovation will take them in the wrong direction. Instead, they should be leading innovators. Here's why:

1. Everyone seems to have a different definition of innovation. Be sure you are leading people who have the same understanding and objectives.

2. Managing innovation implies that the core competence of an innovative enterprise is their system or culture. While that is important, successful innovation comes from living, breathing, humans who innovate or try to repeatedly despite big obstacles.

3. Managing is about optimizing the efficacy and efficiency or resources. Entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs, some of whom are innovators, pursue opportunity with limited resources with the goal of creating user-defined value through the deployment of innovation.

4. Leaderpreneurs are different than managers and have a different role. They provide vision, direction, and inspiration.

5. Managing is about preserving or building the status quo. Innovating is about making the status quo obsolete.

6. Managers rarely assume the roles of intrapreneurial sponsors. Leaderpreneurs have to to be successful.

7. Managers get in the way by controlling. Leaderpreneurs get out of the way by inspiring.

8. Leaderpreneurs create innovation management systems that can be scaled with the goal of making themselves obsolete as quickly as possible. Managers create systems to protect their jobs.

9. Leaderpreneurs organize chaos and serendipity. Managers strive to standardize.

10. Managers think short-term costs. Innovation leaderpreneurs measure things as longer-term investments.

Innovation is not a nebulous concept tucked somewhere in a strategic plan. Like any combat team, it has a face, a heart, and a soul and needs to nurtured and led, not managed.

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