Big Idea by Hal Gregersen


Hal Gregersen

Part of being a great leader is being innovative, creating solutions that no one else has seen.  So, I make choices to build new businesses and new ideas that make a powerful deep impact.  I need to change my actions to produce those sorts of creative ideas.  Here’s what innovative leaders do, they ask provocative questions, they look at the world around them trying to figure out what’s going well, what’s not and they will not give up with their questions until they figure out why. Then, once they start asking the right questions, they get out of their office, they get into the world, and they start collecting data themselves on real time.  So, they go out, and they observe like an anthropologist.  They are careful in their observations and are looking for surprises, the unexpected things that no one else sees.  They also talk with people and network with people who are not like them.  When we are seeking out friends, we look for people who are like us, and they are friendly to us but when we are looking for new ideas, we have to seek out people who are not like us, different gender, different ethnicity, different industry and so on. Innovative companies are led by innovative leaders.  It has been observed from the global data that to make a company innovative one needs to act innovatively. This is expected from everyone in the company which means getting new ideas for processes, products, services, and even business models that take harnessing thousands of people. Getting them engaged with the same skills to get ideas about their part of the workflow can help a company to be more innovative. The innovative companies around the world hire people who have these skills coming into them.  Companies who are innovative also have these processes in place that enable lots of people to be graded for innovation.  For example, the Keyence Corporation in Japan makes small sensors.  They do a superb job of training all of their sales staff to go in as great observers in the factory environments, come back to the technologist and create the perfect sensor for the environment. Investors are willing to pay more for the company share price because they believe they will do something good in the future. When it comes to innovation, this walking the talk, doing it yourself, I think is more important than any other change initiative that a manager can lead because innovation at the core is risky.  Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon said that his job as a leader at Amazon is to reduce the cost of experimentation, taking risks and trying things so that many experiments happen at Amazon. The attitude indicates that the job is not only as an experimenter and a risk taker but building  good ideas, cutting the path or creating the way, building the space around the organization which is safe for anyone.

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