In scanning the web of the typical articles on leadership and innovation, we came across a great piece called “The DNA of Innovation Leaders” by Luis Solis.
In the article, Solis, based upon his personal research on innovative leaders, argues for “Six DNA Strands of Innovation Leaders.” They are (paraphrased):
#1 Self-awareness: successful innovation leaders have an above-average awareness of their strengths or weaknesses, and thus how to build teams, processes and agendas to get the most done in complex large organizations.
#2 Eclectic experience: it may sound hackneyed, but these are Renaissance women and men. MBAs are optional. Many have enjoyed numerous seemingly disparate career facets, only to learn that their point of view or perspective can embrace many situations or many types of people….
#3 Mission-driven: often confused with provocateurs who seek change for its own sake, successful Innovation Leaders share a deep understanding of the organization’s strategic thrust….
#4 Synthesizing: on a cognitive level, successful innovation leaders have developed (not necessarily born with) the analytical capacity to extract trends and patterns from many requirements, trends, ideas and outcomes….
#5 Story telling: it may not always seem like a story is being told, but the communication style of successful innovation leaders helps associates, partners, management and colleagues to understand why innovation change is imperative, how it will or has been achieved, the risks and benefits, and the roles of all stakeholders in making progress….
#6 Business case ready: successful innovation leaders rarely assume funding will be assured, resources or staffing will be granted, or that the organization understand or values the outcomes generated….
I really like the way these six DNA strands of innovation are organized. They are all important. but for the purpose of MDNA and synchronized leadership, I would like to focus on the first DNA strand of “Self-Awareness.”
There are a great deal of resources out there that promote the concept of self-awareness. From self-help to coaching and consulting, there is no end to sources of insight and information. Yet the question is, then why don’t we have more innovative leaders?
I believe to figure out how to create more innovative leaders, we have to go deeper into the core of how people are designed. If you understand what MDNA is all about, you will quickly realize that not everybody is designed to be innovative in the same way. Every MDNA gift has a part to play in innovation, but this looks different from person-to-person.
We as an organization have been doing extensive thinking on this to teach organizations how to create more innovative cultures. Here is a brief overview of how MDNA impacts innovation:
Possesses the ability to see hidden strategies and cause-and-effect principle. Can execute rapid R&D. Will take risks. Idea Factory.
Prefers to let others provide innovation. However will offer service-based adaptation and needs recognition. Supports patiently.
Provides validation approach to innovation. Strong analytical skills however requiring rational processing before leaps of faith. Will not impose.
Recognizes connections and opportunity potential quickly. Will be quick to embrace and communicate innovative ideas. Loves interaction
Risk aversion can stifle innovation. But can provide key approvals and “blessing” to innovation representing value. Works hard to advance value. ROI focused.
Facilitates innovation by providing resources, agendas and favors. Prefers to administrate vs. innovate. Creates environment for maturity.
Passion for intentionality in design, engagement and experience innovation. Brings intuition and alignment. Creative excellence.
The bottom line for us is that a leader is only as innovative as his or her self-awareness AND social graph of others allows. In other words, one must know their core motivational design while at the same time learn how to harness the innovation designs of others around them. Yes, Steve Jobs (IAF) was considered innovative, but we must recognize the supporting cast of leadership around him. Bill Gates (CVS) is considered innovative, but he wouldn’t be where he was today without Paul Allen (UCD).
So what kind of innovative leader are you designed to be? And are you building your social graph to support innovation?