How To Find Champions Of Innovation Among Your Ranks

 Andy Zynga .FAST COMPANY. September 17, 2012

Companies today invest more than ever in innovation and OI (open innovation) to be first to market and advance their goals. When they start to build OI programs the challenge remains how to select the right leaders to spearhead them. The search for an innovation champion often begins internally, with a search for someone who is a confident leader comfortable working in an unstructured environment, capable of thinking creatively and a genuinely good listener. A tall order indeed!

This person often has the vision to operate outside the company’s traditional business structure, to partner in unstructured environments, and the urgency to drive outcomes–whatever it takes. Often freewheeling and individualistic, these are the right people to launch one-off successes, but not necessarily the right people to fuel and manage an ongoing, repeatable innovation program.

For example, we worked on a program with a medical device company and it became clear that they would not be able to scale their innovation successes by relying on the successful individual performers in their R&D teams. While these individuals were visionary in the context of their subject matter expertise, they were not very effective at engaging and motivating other innovation teams or in obtaining the broad company support required to take their initiatives to broader successful outcomes.

Creating an innovation program and having it flourish beyond one well-suited champion with one set of skills typically necessitates a team to kick it off and make it soar. These teams need the energy and can-do approach of the earlier initiators, but cloning themselves does not embed the organization with the attributes and skills that build long-term, sustainable, collaborative innovation.

As more companies over the years have taken a real interest in investing in innovation, we worked to develop a methodology that would be effective and repeatable for building successful innovation teams.

We practiced what we preached, so to speak–as I often say “going beyond our four walls” to find the missing piece we needed to build a model that would help companies select leaders to drive and develop innovation cultures from the inside out. We decided to partner with a great company with expertise that complemented our own, CALIPER, a human capital management company that, for the past 50 years, has helped more than 28,000 companies in 13 countries select and develop top performers.

Together, we co-developed a customized and scientifically sound model to build out teams that would be well positioned to grow OI programs and innovation-driven business cultures. The specialized strengths required for managing innovation teams range from being comfortable reaching into the outside world for new solutions, to being able to help groups of intelligent, independent, and strong-minded individuals to work more collaboratively.

We found there are actually two key roles needed in an OI team–the visionary and the implementer. Knowing this, we developed two Collaborative Innovation Profiles for Innovation Leaders and Project Managers.

The profiles surface key differences between these two roles. For instance, Innovation Leaders are visionary, strong communicators, and comfortable with risks. Project Managers are skilled in keeping innovation teams on task, with a sensitivity to organizational needs and goals, and strong attention to detail. Their teams are enhanced by individuals with diverse backgrounds and qualities, from dreamers who push everyone’s thinking “to the edge,” to experts who know what it takes to accomplish specific outcomes. The combined traits build sustainable innovation because the leaders bring fresh blue-sky thinking and the project managers create accountability to ensure a stream of outcomes.

Here is a quick, high-level snapshot of traits that each of the leadership profiles have, to be referenced in building effective innovation leadership teams:

Innovation Leaders:

•Create & Communicate Collaborative Innovation Vision

•Innovation & Creativity

•Analytical Thinking

•Leading Change

•Organizational Awareness

•Strategic Partnering

Project Managers:

•Planning & Organizing

•Quality Orientation

•Innovation & Creativity

•Analytical Thinking

•Business Acumen


•Team Leadership
Innovation is forward-looking by nature. On the surface, selecting the right team to lead innovation in your organization may seem to require a simple leap of faith in selecting inspirational leaders to make it happen. But this isn’t true.

Personality profiling, and knowing what management practices and organizational structures spark innovative thinking and action, is the not-so magic combination that delivers results and value.

Be cautious, though–a great match for the role of the “visionary” is not a great match for that of the “implementer.” And be aware of the traits that can become the demise of either role:

Innovation Leaders:



Project Managers:



Organizations that succeed do so because these “skunkworks” teams are embedded throughout the organization; they include cross-functional contributions from the organization broadly and are empowered with the freedom, budgets, and tools to operate in parallel structures. Still, finding the key integration points is important to unload projects from the innovation team, and make way for new initiatives.

Innovation is a way of life, a daily challenge, and indeed a thrill for those who are incentivized to think and act fearlessly, knowing the risks (and embracing the rewards) of being the first and the only to cross the boundaries that trailblazers do. With a proven methodology for selecting leaders with qualities that will drive innovation teams forward–rather than in circles–you have a recipe for success on the road to realizing an innovation culture.


Women as leaders

SEPTEMBER 2008 • Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, and Rebecca A. Craske
Source: Organization Practice

A new approach to leadership can help women become more self-confident and effective business leaders.

Women start careers in business and other professions with the same level of intelligence, education, and commitment as men. Yet comparatively few reach the top echelons.

This gap matters not only because the familiar glass ceiling is unfair, but also because the world has an increasingly urgent need for more leaders. All men and women with the brains, the desire, and the perseverance to lead should be encouraged to fulfill their potential and leave their mark.

With all this in mind, the McKinsey Leadership Project—an initiative to help professional women at McKinsey and elsewhere—set out four years ago to learn what drives and sustains successful female leaders. We wanted to help younger women navigate the paths to leadership and, at the same time, to learn how organizations could get the best out of this talented group.

To that end, we have interviewed more than 85 women around the world (and a few good men) who are successful in diverse fields. Some lead 10,000 people or more, others 5 or even fewer. While the specifics of their lives vary, each one shares the goal of making a difference in the wider world. All were willing to discuss their personal experiences and to provide insights into what it takes to stay the leadership course. We have also studied the academic literature; consulted experts in leadership, psychology, organizational behavior, and biology; and sifted through the experiences of hundreds of colleagues at McKinsey.

From the interviews and other research, we have distilled a leadership model comprising five broad and interrelated dimensions (exhibit): meaning, or finding your strengths and putting them to work in the service of an inspiring purpose; managing energy, or knowing where your energy comes from, where it goes, and what you can do to manage it; positive framing, or adopting a more constructive way to view your world, expand your horizons, and gain the resilience to move ahead even when bad things happen; connecting, or identifying who can help you grow, building stronger relationships, and increasing your sense of belonging; and engaging, or finding your voice, becoming self-reliant and confident by accepting opportunities and the inherent risks they bring, and collaborating with others.Continue reading.

Happy Felabration

Image Today, the 15th of October 2012 marks the beginning of Felabration, the yearly event (now in its 15th year) organized to celebrate the life and influence of the Nigerian music legend and global musical icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Although his mannerism may not have been accepted by all (especially the religious establishment and the goons in power at the time),his talent and the veracity message cannot be contested. Unlike the typical Nigeria politician that tends to come close to the people only during electioneering campaigns, Fela was very much in touch with the ailing of the people.

In’ Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am’,Fela describes the many predicament and challenges the common man faces:a tenant just lost his job ut he is confronted by an unsympathetic landlord for immediate payment.

In ‘Sorrow, Tears, and Blood,‘ he gives what I believe  is the most plausible reason why an ‘arab spring’ style event is most unlikely in Nigeria despite the level of decadence in our political leadership.

According to Fela:

We fear for the air around us
We fear to fight for freedom
We fear to fight for liberty
We fear to fight for justice
We fear to fight for happiness
We always get reason to fear.

Fela’s tool for bringing about social change was music, but he desired change not only in society but also in government and in how religious leaders relate with their followers:Shuffering and Shmiling is a clear announcement to religious folks that their leaders are mere men and should not be followed blindly.

Teach don’t teach me nonsense, I.T.T (international thief thief), V.I.P (vagabonds in power) are just are few of Fela’s many attempts to speak truth to power.

Fela was never given a national award, but he is more respected than nearly all of  our previous leaders.Unlike these past leaders whose fame and fortune die with them, Fela’s is apparently growing in his absence.

Fela’s songs, prophetic in many respects should give political office holders and leaders everywhere something to think about.

If you are in government and the welfare of the people is not your concern, then you will be a burden that will be offloaded and forgotten very quickly.

One of the saddest things to befall this country was when  generals in the Nigerian army  seized power .The  worst  them was the  one that declared himself  president whilst in the army (how can you be a military president? illiteracy extravaganza).

Imagine the mediocrity,desperation  and sheer backwardness of this fellow.I have often wondered how such individuals got into the army,who was the recruiting officer that gave him the all clear?; it is unfortunate that he squandered the training and exposure granted him by the army.

Nigeria ,Africa and the entire world needs leaders.Men and women of positive influence;men and women that admit their weaknesses  but are also very willing take correction.


7 Web Tools Every Start-up Needs.TECH REPORT | John Brandon. INC. MAGAZINE | OCTOBER 3, 2012


Whether you’re just starting up or need a way to manage existing operations, these tools have you covered…read more

8 Qualities of Fearless Entrepreneurs.OWNERS’ MANUAL | Jeff Haden. INC. MAGAZINE |  Oct  8, 2012

You know the type: They do things other business owners only dream of doing–and usually succeed. Here’s what sets them apart…read  more

3 Habits of Highly Unsuccessful Businesses.

HERDING GAZELLES | INC. MAGAZINE | Karl Stark and Bill Stewart  Sep 21, 2012

We mostly hear about what great businesses do well. But there are lessons to be learned from the traits that keep many businesses from reaching their potential…read more

The first perso…

The first person  l heard the word leader/leadership from was my father.I was just 6 years old at the time,and I remember he would sit me by his side to chat me up on leadership.My father consistently reminded me “…not to spoil his name”.At the time he kept using phrases like “self disciple”,”selfless service” and “a good name”.This was 37 years ago.Now,considering the state of our societies,at what age would teachings and a knowledge of leadership have benefited political office holders?

l would like to have your views.