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11 characteristics to lead innovation

Understanding innovation


“Future of Retail & AI Event” —Leon Pawelzik, Google Offices, Munich



Effective management entails being able to infuse core principles into everyday operations. What are the core principles that can help spur ideation and innovation in an organisation? How can a leader inspire and motivate their team? How can we create innovators?


It starts with the characteristics of the leader themselves. Are they themselves innovators?

. . .


What is an Innovator?

The phrase that my colleague often uses is:


“Maker in the morning, manager in the afternoon.”


Because primarily innovation is driven by makers. Leaders who are also innovators love to think about solving problems and not just managing tasks and activities. They spend their time wisely because they recognise that innovation expands and grows in the period of time that is made available.. Daily buffers are built in so their innovation and ideas are not limited by time constraints. And leaders know how precious their time is.


A leader must understand innovation and embody the characteristics of innovation before they can create space for employee innovation. So creating space — like mornings — for new ideas and discussing and testing problem solving can help.


Characteristics of innovators

What do innovators do? How do they behave? In my company’s view, innovators:


  1. Are authentic leaders — only with transparency can true ideation and innovation thrive

  2. Are committed to creating dynamic and value-based organisations — caring about the purpose of the organisation and the impact it can have on customers is key

  3. Give employees clarity about their roles and responsibilities — and then give them room to work — no micromanaging — to create new and innovative products or services, or solve the problems they encounter

  4. Are committed to diversity — not only traditional or visible diversity, but also cultural diversity, cognitive diversity and diversity of ideas

  5. Make employees feel valued and respected — if you don’t care, neither will they, show that you value their contribution

  6. Understand it takes many different points of view to fully grasp today’s world complexity — don’t dismiss an idea out of hand, combine it with another, test it, try to see how it can be leveraged

  7. Know how to navigate through resistance to their ideas — keeping an open mind to progress ideas and learning the ability to gain buy-in

  8. Create environments in which employees are given the tools and resources to challenge the status quo — create an environment where employees can challenge old ways of doing things, can share new ideas without judgement

  9. Are not afraid of breaking through the norm and pushing past conventional wisdom — innovation requires making a few errors or mistakes, and you have to have a strong backbone to get up again

  10. Understand innovation is not a one-time activity — it is an ongoing activity, embedded into the day-to-day activities

  11. Are aware that knowledge is dynamic and takes continuous learning — innovation is learning, over and over and over again…


To become a Changemaker and a future leader you must be able to infuse core principles into everyday operations, these innovation characteristics are a starting point.


We know how difficult it is to stay on track every day, which is why we continue to share ideas, create tools and products to help. Take a moment to consider the core problem that is being solved, the customer need that must be met, and stay focused on the innovation process.


Today you are a maker. A Changemaker.


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Co-authored by Raj Hayer & Steven Mc Auley


To kick start innovation on your teams, try our Innovators Box


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