Innovation isn’t the Goal; It’s the Strategy.

By Tony Vengrove Strategy Focus I’ve come to the conclusion that the “We Have to Innovate or Die” mantra has done more harm than good. The fatal flaw comes from the use of the word, “innovate.” It leaves many thinking innovation is the goal as opposed to an enabling strategy—that if some form of innovation is not achieved, the company is destined for extinction. Yes, we have to innovate, but again, innovation isn’t the goal, it’s an enabling strategy.

“How can we better serve our market?”

It’s time we treat it as such.  We’ll all be better served if we stop focusing on innovation as a means to an end, and get back to asking: How can we better serve our market? This question invites strategic and creative thinking. There are surely numerous ways to serve our market better; delivering innovation is just one of them.

During my corporate years, I didn’t come to work everyday asking myself, What can I innovate? I concentrated on how we could attract new customers to our business. How could we better serve the market? How can I capture an attractive market segment for our company? What changes in the market should we be worried about? Answers to questions like these led to an array of ideas ranging from new product concepts, pricing strategies, to marketing communication and more.

Perhaps I’m a different breed, but when I led innovation teams I didn’t feel obligated to only influence new product development; I viewed my role as having the authority to scrutinize all facets of the business—internally and externally. By taking a holistic approach to what was precipitating change in consumer behavior and market dynamics, we not only questioned every detail about the business, we forced people to explain why they were doings things the way they were. This curiosity and the conversation it generated often resulted in a “What if we…?” moment—that inspirational aha when someone connects the dots and shares an idea.

When innovation teams adopt a more holistic approach to their strategic thinking, they’ll not only develop ideas that are more aligned with market needs, they’ll be quicker to identify emergent strategic shifts that warrant further study and response.  And in this day and age, we all know the value of getting out in front of an important trend.

“The goal for innovation leaders is to ensure perpetual growth for the business.”

The most important goal for an innovation leader is to ensure perpetual growth for the business.  The goal isn’t to just churn out new products. Believe me, I know firsthand what it’s like to lead innovation. The pressure to deliver is often translated into numerical targets: bring X amount of new concepts to the table and launch X amount of new products into market. Those are important metrics to track, but when you’re simply trying to hit numbers, you’re probably going to waste precious resources launching subpar ideas. Just because something is novel and you have the capability to produce it doesn’t mean you should.

Treating innovation as a strategy helps avoid the temptation to think myopically about new product development. By asking, “How can we better serve our market?” instead of “What can we innovate?” ensures you’ll identify multiple relevant opportunities across the entire marketing mix that can serve to preserve and grow your business.  That’s what it all about!

Photo: Getty Images/IvelinRadkov

Tony VengroveMiles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

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Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate: Insights from a Former Fortune 200 Innovation Director

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Episode 1: Introduction to The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership

By Tony Vengrove

7 C's of Creative Leadership

Welcome to the first episode of The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership!  We’re excited to kick off this nine-part series about what it really takes to lead innovation and foster a culture of creativity.

In this introductory episode, co-host Todd Schnick and I lay a foundation for the series.  Specifically, we:

  • Define important terms: innovation, creativity, creative leadership.
  • Share the inspiration behind The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership.
  • Discuss why developing creative leadership competencies are so critical.
  • Provide an overview for each of the Seven C competencies: Communication, Curiosity, Creativity, Connecting, Culture, Change Management, and Courage.

The lack of creative-leadership abilities among corporate leaders represents the biggest leadership abyss in business today. We’re here to serve you by sharing critical skills and competencies that will unleash the creative potential of your employees.

Be sure to join us next Monday for Episode Two.  We’ll welcome Perry Baldwin, COO of The Family Room, who will share his wisdom on how to use the power of communication to inspire people to think more creatively. In addition, Perry explains why objectives are so critical when leading productive conversations about your organization’s ideas.

You can follow the show and listen to archived episodes at our official landing page at Business in the Morning.

Tony VengroveMiles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Introducing The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership Podcast Series

By Tony Vengrove

7 C's of Creative Leadership

Since Miles Finch Innovation opened its doors in 2012, we’ve championed the development of creative leadership capabilities for our C-Suite clients. For over 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of leading corporate innovation teams; I can tell you first hand that the lack of creative-leadership skills represents the biggest leadership abyss in corporate America today. It’s why nearly every CEO who says she’s committed to innovation, also confesses she’s underwhelmed with the quality of ideas in the pipeline.

To fill this critical void, I’m thrilled to announce that Miles Finch Innovation, on Monday August 25th, is launching an exciting new podcast series entitled, “The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership.” We’ve partnered with the amazing Todd Schnick of Dreamland Media to produce a nine-part series illustrating each Seven C Competency: communication, curiosity, creativity, connecting, culture, change management and courage. We have a fabulous AAA lineup of guests who operate on the frontline of innovation. They’re going to share their firsthand perspective of what it really takes to lead innovation and foster a culture of creativity.

We’re going to arm you with practical applications that can be put into practice immediately, so you can model the powerful behaviors of an effective creative leader. You’ll put yourself, and your organization, on a path to creativity and successful innovation.

“A creative leader fosters the conditions for others to be creative.”

What is Creative Leadership? While the term has been bandied about for some time, it’s gaining increased attention as corporate leaders recognize innovation requires an ability to inspire and manage creativity—something they have very little experience at. Unlike many who think creative leadership requires demonstrating one’s personal creativity, we believe it’s far more important for a creative leader to foster the conditions for others to be creative.

Why is Creative Leadership so important? Once a company makes the commitment to innovate, they’re essentially making creativity a cultural pillar. Since most companies are process-oriented and their leaders have great analytical prowess, it’s no surprise that a tug-of-war quickly forms between the logical and creative thinkers. Can you guess who wins?

The problem is, most companies leap into innovation doing what they do best: creating processes and business systems that provide order and control. They set up the innovation department, create the governance, and put their top-tier managers in control. From the get-go, the innovation function is designed to play by the rules of the existing culture, which is usually hell-bent on guarding the status quo. It’s no wonder so many potentially-disruptive ideas are eventually shot down.

“Become a better steward of your company’s greatest asset: employee creativity!”

What can you expect to gain from this series?  We desire to establish a conversation that moves beyond the philosophical level of innovation and creativity. This series will provide pragmatic, actionable insights leaders will want to put into practice immediately. We want to inspire you to become better stewards of your company’s greatest asset: employee creativity!

Who are you going to be inspired by? They’re leaders in F500, advertising, consulting, and an acclaimed international author.  Here they are:

Introduction:  Co-hosts Todd Schnick and Tony Vengrove

Communication: Perry Baldwin, COO, The Family Room

Curiosity: Steve Kazanjian, Founder, Steve Kazanjian, LLC

Creativity: David Bonner, Chief Creative Officer, Marriner Marketing

Connecting: Max Mckeown, Author of The Innovation Book

Culture: Tim Murphy, VP Digital & Media, Pernod Ricard

Change Management: Jeff Shuck, CEO of Plenty

Courage: Denis Budniewski, EVP, Director of Account Leadership at Campbell Mithun

Series Wrap-Up: Ivy Ross, Head of Google Glass.

How you can access this content? Catch each episode of The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership by visiting this page, beginning August 25th and each Monday thereafter.  Mark it on your calendar in red ink!

In addition, on Thursdays, we’ll post a reflective blog on each “C” right here at www.MilesFinchInnovation.com. These articles will provide a summary of each podcast episode, along with key action items and reflective questions.

We hope you’ll join us for this important conversation!  It’s going to change your company’s culture! Creative leadership is the new frontier of leadership theory. It represents the missing piece in the leader’s tool-belt that will foster the innovative culture so desperately needed.

We welcome you to read our foundational post on the Seven C’s of Creative Leadership. If you want to learn more about the Creative Leadership training programs Miles Finch Innovation offers, please email us at info@milesfinchinnovation.com.