Dr. Domenico Lepore, Founder of Intelligent Management Inc. and international expert in Quality and Systems Thinking for organizations, continues his series on Innovation.
Leadership: definition and role
Earlier in this series we suggested the first 2 steps towards prosperous innovation:
1) creating an operational definition (see Prosperous Innovation)
2) challenging the assumption that imagination is equal to innovation (see Imagination and Innovation)
Step three to ensure prosperous innovation is Leadership.
The word leadership has triggered a mass of material in management literature to the point that it’s hard to know what it really means. Indeed, relatively few names come to mind when we think of true leaders. A leader is somebody with a theory, a well-defined and solid conceptual model to support their ambitions to the goal. A leader, though, is also somebody who can create in the stakeholders (their people, customers, suppliers and the community at large) an idea of future they want to be part of. Moreover, they know how to communicate this vision and live with it. A leader is able to imbue this idea of future into the life of their organization.
The transformation of organizations that Intelligent Management advocates is one of system optimization as a prerequisite for innovation; one in which competition is replaced by cooperation, where performances are managed using appropriate statistical thinking and not assessed deterministically, where teamwork is fostered and not the ranking of individuals.
The transformational process associated with sustainable innovation of products and processes must then start with the Leadership of the company.
Quality and the failure of quality systems
Quality systems have not really worked because Leaders have regarded them, essentially and at large, as a bureaucratic obligation and never as an intrinsic part of an essential strategy to foster growth through innovation. Similarly, when companies adopt erratic patterns towards ill-defined innovation this leads to the squandering of public money, triggering a preposterous debate on the role of government in supporting economic growth through such subsidies. How can we avoid this?
In a world that screams for continuous innovation, leaders have an opportunity to give meaning to their role by creating an organization focused around innovation. In this way, companies can rapidly develop the Quality they need to cope with the challenges of globalization.This should entail creating an organization centred around a network of projects with project management not just as a key method but as a way of being. Companies must systematically foster the ability to develop new ideas or products with speed and to design and execute precise project plans, whether simple or complex.
By embracing a paradigm of organizational change as a prerequisite for developing an effective system of innovation, Industry can regain competitiveness and play its role as the economic engine of nations. By demonstrating this committed pattern towards innovation, companies can profitably engage their government and enjoy its deserved support. Everybody wins.
Innovation as the focus of organizational efforts (and a catalyst for quality)
Innovation, leadership and quality are intrinsically interconnected. Innovation is not just another company function, much less a department. Innovation is the very reason why a company exists and survives: to supply customers with products of ever increasing Quality. The organizational systems that enable innovation to flourish are what deserve attention, and therefore money, from investors and government because they translate this money into the wealth of not just shareholders but the community at large.
Recap of 3 steps towards prosperous innovation:
1) Create an operational definition of Innovation
2) Invalidate the flawed assumption that equates “imagination” with “Innovation”
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint . This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.