A management style that supports the innovative approach in an organization is Management 3.0. As I wrote in the previous article (“XI – Thou shall not interfere! People want, are able to and should manage themselves”) (6) in Management 3.0 we are all leaders in specific circumstances. A Leader, who in this concept is called a servant leader, is a more mental leader rather than a functional one, and her task is to take any measures that aim to support the team in realization of established goals.
A servant leader manages not people, but the system around them in such a way that it facilitates the team’s work instead of making it harder. She knows that people with specific skills do their job with high quality and on time if they are given proper conditions to do so. The leader co-creates with her team a clear vision and concrete goals, but it’s the team that decides what methods should be used. The team is allowed to make an independent decision in a specified range. What is an important asset for a servant leader is a mind open to other people’s ideas and experiments. A servant leader understands that mistakes are an inherent part of an organization’s success. Moreover, she actively promotes experimentation, prototyping, constant searching and taking risks.
There is only one good way of showing the employees that we accept the mistakes on the road to creating innovation – and that way is accepting the mistakes on the road to creating innovation. That acceptance must be visible in the organization’s behaviour and reactions, i.e. the budget should consist of an element that shows that we are aware of the fact that we will probably make a few bad investments into a new product before it takes an expected form and brings acceptable profit. If we don’t, our employees will quickly figure it out that in their work there’s no room for experimentation, since no one took them into consideration when making the budget, and that means that the business goals will be realized “the old way”.
A great example of a conscious approach to learning from failures is the economy of the USA, which creates the biggest amount of new businesses and, at the same time, has the biggest percentage of failures – which, according to Nassim Taleb (the author of “Antifragile”), is a perfect prognosis of a healthy economy. According to him, failure is absolutely crucial for a system to work.
An interesting example of an authentic innovative approach of a leader is the crowdsourcing platform launched by Starbucks a few years ago – MY STARBUCKS IDEA, through which people may submit their ideas for new products and vote for them. The decision of the then head of the company was that every solution that got the biggest amount of votes should be put on a month-long trial. Risky, but it worked out perfectly. When people saw that they had a real influence on the assortment available in the coffee shops and that the company did realize their ideas, they became really engaged in the company’s life. It was very crucial for Starbucks since it was a financially difficult period for them. The platform is still working.
What is more, the innovative leader (or the one who supports an innovative approach) does not expect instant answers and instant solutions, since she knows that creative thinking takes time. Innovation days, brainstorms or forums for experience exchange may be an interesting form of creativity support, but the real creative ideas (the third phase of creative process – the incubation phase) are most often born outside of the workshop or brainstorm – just as it was in case of the engineer who, while playing with a padlock of his suitcase, came up with an idea to design the famous iPod function wheel.
It is important that the leader appreciates the value of the recuperation process, which is essential for the mind to successfully incubate new ideas.
A leader who supports innovation also appreciates the importance of “small” innovations implemented by the team members every day. Such a leader encourages teamwork as well, since (despite what most of us think) the innovator is not a mad and lonely inventor – a significant amount of important inventions is the fruit of teamwork.