Leading innovation – More insights from the 2009 IdeaConnection interviews

Picture of Town CrierA couple of weeks back, I posted 39 Insights into the makeup of innovative teams: From the 2009 IdeaConnection interviews.  The insights I extracted after reading approximately 50 interviews, with leading innovation authors, on IdeaConnection, a company that connects business to creative and innovative people, from around the world.  The majority of the interviews were conducted by Vern Burkhardt, a most capable interviewer, and nicely accent the interviewee’s core beliefs, ideas and experiences; and the tight bond between collaboration and innovation.

Here’s some of the many insights (culled from interviews) that give a snapshot of innovative leadership.  Most of the points (below) are in addition to those mentioned in the earlier post about innovative teams.  I’ve added the actual author’s name (in brackets), in case you want to read the related interview on the IdeaConnection website.


  • Experience; leadership depends more on life experiences than personality types or specific skills (Frohman)

Thinking that enhances innovation

  • E-intelligence; of course, the e stands for emotional (many)
  • T-shaped; vertical + horizontal = more attachment points (Kelley)
  • The hard way; facing up to problems instead of sugar coating them (Frohman)
  • Stir the pot; leaders must produce uncertainty (Ridderstrale)
  • Paradoxes; value both freedom & structure, divergence & convergence (many)
  • Broad-bandwith; see both forest & trees (Deschamps)
  • Community & fashion; differentiate when all (community) is becoming the same (Brabandere)
  • Long-term; the only perspective for judging innovation (Deschamps)
  • Journaling; along with mind mapping a genius skill (Gelb)
  • Human being as a system; body, emotions, mind, spirit – it all matters (Gelb)
  • Accidental inductive process; creating a coherent narrative from your sources (Bhide)

Structuring for innovation

  • Chief Innovation Officer (Siegel)
  • Cybernetics; science of feedback (Brabandere)
  • Magnetwork; magnet + network, attracting new members, partners (Dundon)
  • Enthusiasts; bloggers & other cost-effective brand ambassadors (Gillin)
  • Selling innovation; stories, peeks behind the scenes, customer self-service (Seybold et al)
  • Recognition; begin every staff meeting with recognition, make an agenda item (Gostick)

Mottos to lead innovation by

  • Yes first!; say yes to the potential that exists within an idea (Sweeney)
  • Take time to think; be a reflective practitioner (Frohman)
  • Sell collaboration; sales & marketing just as important as product development (Bhide)
  • Rock-n-roll; structure (score) + creativity (improvisation) = innovation (music) (Cook)
  • Lead the change; innovation starts at the top (Deschamps)
  • Reduce the gap; between people’s potential & actual use of their potential (Kotter)
  • Read books ; believe in the power of knowledge (Miller Caldicott)
  • Continuation; have sense of urgency, non-complacency, compete (Kotter)
  • First do no harm; when addressing crisis (Bhide)
  • Core & context; strategy that differentiates (core) & all other processes/ investments (context) (Moore)
  • Stay true; to passion (Frohman)
  • Invisible mentors; learn from others, far away (Frohman)
  • Bamboo metaphor; nurture; bamboo takes 2 years before it breaks ground, then whoaah! (Colan)
  • 10,000; pattern recognition comes with practice (Leonard)
  • Morph the business; adapt, change business model frequently (Seybold)
  • Informal elements; culture, values, work norms critical in turnaround challenge (Katzenbach)
  • Leap of faith oratory; appeals at the gut level, think Churchill in WW2 (Katzenbach)
  • Relationships; show curiosity, astonishment, love, humor, imagination (many)
  • Appreciation; the most significant human psychological need (Colan)

And you?

Perhaps some (most?) of these insights you’re already applying.  Which do you rely on the most? What would you like to add to this list?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to my blog. Always appreciated, Ben.

Photo credit: Foot Slogger


  1. For innovation, II rely on collaboration, especially with people extremely unlike me yet who share a common interest – in grabbing an opportunity or solving a problem. And it is that approach that led me to your blog

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Kare. I like how you explicitly state it is your intention to bring in different people/perspectives, unlike yourself, as part of the innovation process. Your approach (which I also think of as building a richer ‘common ground’, between a group of diverse people) nicely complements many of the other approaches/insights I documented in this post.

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