3 Qualities of Innovation Leaders

Elephant With Butterfly Wings

When You Need Radical Innovation

Innovation.

It’s at the top of nearly every organization’s strategic priority list. Whether due to tepid growth, robust competition, globalization, budget constraints, or a myriad of other reasons, almost every organization is seeking innovation. Looking for the next big thing to transform the business and to improve a customer’s experience is always top of mind for a leadership team.

 

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” –Drew Houston

 

Steven Hoffman is Captain and CEO of Founders Space, a Top 10 Incubator in Inc. and the #1 Accelerator for startups coming to Silicon Valley from overseas in Forbes. He is constantly innovating, and he is a serial entrepreneur and investor. From his vantage point, he’s seen what works and what doesn’t. His book, Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation, is a practical guide to help startups achieve breakthrough growth and help more established organizations find a path to successful innovation.

It is a compelling read, filled with great examples to help you achieve faster growth. I recently spoke with Steve about his book.

 

“Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” –Steven Hoffman

 

Copying is Brilliant

One of your chapters is focused on copying vs. creating. You say, “Copying is a brilliant business strategy.” What role should copying play in radical innovation?

All great innovations are built on top of previous discoveries. Copying is an essential starting point. Steve Jobs copied Palm Pilot when developing the iPhone. Mark Zuckerberg copied Friendster and Myspace when developing Facebook. Brian Chesky copied Craigslist when developing Airbnb. But all these brilliant entrepreneurs innovated radically, and that’s why they were able to breakthrough and become so much bigger than their predecessors.

To innovate, you must start with something, and it helps to pick a business model that works. That’s where copying comes in. Once you’ve identified the customer need, then you must figure out how to radically improve it. There are only two ways to break through:

1) You create a product that is exponentially better. This is what Google did with its search engine. It was ten times better than the preceding search engines.

2) You create something new, something that offers a different value than the competition. This is what Twitter did with its micro-blogging platform. It wasn’t like a typical blog because it limited posts to 140 characters, which created an entirely new experience for readers and bloggers.

How to Increase Team and Company Morale and Performance

people skills

Increase Company Morale

 

People issues. Many leaders will tell you that people problems keep them up at night. From dealing with the under-performers to retaining and motivating the superstars, people problems dominate a leader’s thoughts.

One primary difference between a great culture and a poor one is this: a great culture has stars in every seat and a poor culture tolerates under-performers.

That’s what Trevor Throness explains in his new book, The Power of People Skills. His book teaches how to make the right people decisions. Don’t let the difficult people problems slow you down. His book is a helpful guide to everyone in management. I recently spoke with him about his work. Trevor is a coach who has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs and organizations fix people problems and build exceptional cultures.

 

“The one quality that all successful business leaders have in common is tenacity.” –Trevor Throness

 

Attracting A Players. Many say they want to do this, but they don’t put the time and resources in to show it’s a priority. Why is it so important?

It’s important because A Players are up to 300% more productive and valuable to you than others.  Think of your best person; wouldn’t you rather lose three other weaker players than lose him?  One great employee is worth three adequate employees.  The irony is that often the best employees cost nearly the same as the worst.  50% of medical doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class, but they all charge the same!

 

“A-Players are up to 300% more productive and valuable to you than others.” –Trevor Throness

 

2 People Myths

What are some of the people myths that affect many companies?

Here are two of the biggest myths:

  • People’s basic weaknesses will change if they’re coached

Often leaders believe that, through their expert intervention, the basic construct of someone’s personality will change.  “Sure, today they’re a quiet, detail-oriented person who prefers to work alone, but once I show them the way, they’ll become an aggressive leader!”  The truth is that leopards don’t change their spots.  The best case scenario for any employee is that he will become a better version of who he already is.  If you’re unhappy with the fundamentals of who he is, coaching is not going to fix that.

  • The point of coaching is to help people fix their weaknesses

The focus of coaching should be to capitalize on strengths, not to build a set of strong weaknesses.  When I’m coaching someone, and we’re discussing weaknesses, I’m hoping that the person will grow in self-awareness so she can see how her weaknesses affect her team and then moderate that behavior.  Mostly, however, I’m looking to adjust her role so that she can spend more of her day capitalizing on her strengths, doing what she was born to do, what makes her feel strong, and what accounts for most of her results.

 

“One great employee is worth three adequate employees.” –Trevor Throness

 

Which myth most surprises people?

How to Forge Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change

breakthrough

From Breakdown to Breakthrough 

Business leaders often focus on profits and metrics, living in spreadsheets and analytics. But what drives these results is people and relationships. So often it’s the resilient relationships, those that are forged in uncertain and difficult times that make the difference.

Author Michael Papanek takes three decades of experience with clients ranging from Apple to Google and shares it in his new book, From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Forging Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change. His framework helps leaders develop the confidence to take these relationships to the next level. I recently asked him about his work.

 

“Resilience is a social phenomenon based on relationships, not an individual leadership attribute.” -Michael Papanek

 

Build Strong Relationships

What are the elements of a strong relationship?

A strong business relationship will have a number of attributes that set that relationship apart from others.  First, it must provide value to both parties, and it is “generative,” meaning the value together is more than any one person could create on their own: so that 1 + 1 = 3.  Strong relationships also create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.

One example of this is from the entertainment world, where the band the Grateful Dead was famous for their long relationship with their very loyal fans (which continues today, long after the passing of their leader Jerry Garcia).  In addition to music, the band created value in other key ways for the fans, such as supporting a community of fans (the “Dead Heads”) as well as creating an ‘outside the concert’ experience, and even income for some fans (by selling items at the shows).

Finally, a strong relationship contributes to key strategies or needs of each party.  Relationships that do not create value this way may be categorized as superficial and easily ended. If you are ever not sure if the business relationship is really strong, that is the time to discuss it. Do not wait until you are surprised by a change.

 

“Strong relationships create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.” -Michael Papanek

 

How often do our relationships hit that sweet spot between strong, flexible and fair?

The #1 Thing that Should Keep Leaders Up at Night

leaders up at night

Find the Katherines

 

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson turns 99 years young this week.

She was born August 26, 1918. Her life has been nothing short of extraordinary. No one could have predicted her success when she born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the youngest of four children. Her father worked various jobs at the Greenbrier Hotel. Her mother was a teacher. As a young girl, she loved to count and showed a strong interest in math. Her abilities were recognized, and she entered college at fifteen and graduated at eighteen.

Starting her career as a teacher, she later moved to work at the Langley Memorial Laboratory at NASA.

As an African American woman in the early 1950s, she began to break one barrier after another. She overcame considerable sexism and racism, distinguishing herself through her work ethic and genius in the field of analytic geometry.

Her early work led to the discovery that larger planes disrupt air currents and can cause smaller aircraft to crash long afterwards, bringing a change to flight patterns and saving lives. She famously worked on the calculations that helped bring Senator John Glenn back from the first American orbital mission.

Senator Glenn trusted her over the first IBM mainframe computers. He wouldn’t okay the mission until Katherine okayed the math.

From the moon landing to the Space Shuttle program, Katherine was there, making an impact on it all.

All this extraordinary history, and Katherine’s struggles and triumphs, is beautifully told in Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, a book by Margot Lee Shetterly. (If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, put them on your must-read and watch list! It documents a shameful period in history, but one that must be remembered. I found it incredibly inspiring to demonstrate the inherent evil, bias and prejudice we must always fight against.)

 

“The greatest talents often lie buried out of sight.” -Plautus

 

Learn from Katherine’s Extraordinary Career

So, on her 99th birthday, we can learn many lessons from her career success:

  • She learned continuously.
  • She cultivated her unique gifts.
  • She lived on the edge of her comfort zone.
  • She demonstrated courage in the face of racism and sexism.
  • She overcame others’ false, negative perceptions.
  • She trail-blazed thinking and challenged tradition.
  • She broke barriers mathematically, socially, and academically.

No wonder she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. She not only contributed to the USA’s success in space, but her courage, tenacity, and determination changed people, perceptions, and processes all along the way.

Amazing.

 

 

“Katherine knew: once you took the first step, anything was possible.” –Margot Lee Shetterly

 

The Leadership Lesson Behind the Story

But there’s something else that strikes me as I reflect on her lifetime of achievement. It’s something that, as a leader, no one tells you about in school or in classes. It’s something that, as a business leader and CEO, I ponder quite a bit.

Why Values and a Purpose are Vital for Leaders Today

purpose

Matthew Snider is a writer, a personal development junkie and a regular blogger at Self Development Secrets, a blog to help you achieve your goals. For more tips like these, I encourage you to visit his site.

Have you worked under someone who was so assured and stood their ground that no matter what happened, he or she knew what mattered? Then you’ve probably worked with a leader who has strong, unshakeable values. It’s not about the money, recognition or power. These values that drive them are something bigger. Finding your purpose is one thing. Finding it as a leader is an entirely different subject. It’s not about emulating other successful leaders or key figures in the industry; it’s about identifying your real values in life, knowing that this gives you a definite purpose for making the tough decisions as a leader. Let’s go about finding out how these things can be so vital to being a better leader.

 

The Making Of A Better Leader

Making decisions is what leaders do. They get paid to make the tough calls. But what’s more important are the values of a leader. It gives the team consistency and stability. What I mean by that is this: having a set of values will give a team a direction, a company culture, and adds some meaning to the work that is being done. All these start from the top, the leader, and flows down to every level. Now every leader has their values, and they can differ from one to another. Two good leaders can have completely different values. So what exactly is a value and how does it help one become a better leader?

 

“Great people have great values and great ethics.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

 

What Are Values?

Values are what is important to us—in other words, what we value, or the thing that drives us. People will have certain core values which help shape them into who they are today. The same values can also be different for everyone. For example, if two people value love, they can show it in very different ways through their actions or vocally. It’s sad to think that even though we all have values, when it comes to working, we tend to adopt the values we were taught to follow. Unfortunately, these values can hurt us, and it’s not something we would like to associate with our real values.

 

The Purpose Of A Leader

Harvard Business Review states that based on the author’s understanding, less than 20% of leaders have a strong sense of individual purpose. These same leaders can tell us the mission statement of the company, but they lack the sole purpose that makes them stand out as a leader. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or told to lead a small team of three, your purpose is what makes you, you. It’s your why: why you’re working, why you want to lead the team and more. That’s the difference between leaders, and a good leader has an ultimate purpose. This is why some leaders get remembered and acknowledged long after they’re gone.

 

How to Find Your Purpose?