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Innovation leadership

Top 5 things leaders can do to create a positive culture for innovation

Create the innovation vision; motivate and inspire

John C. Maxwell, the leadership expert , says, “Leadership is influence nothing more, nothing less”. For any leader, influence is developed by inspiring the people that know more about the technical aspects of projects to use their talents for a cause much bigger than themselves (Isaksen & Ekvall, 2010). The vision of the innovative culture and climate must align with the core of the practitioners to sustain the culture for the long haul.

Model the innovative behavior expected

In their seminal work, “Innovator’s DNA”, Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen, (2009) posited five innovation competencies and four paradigms of engagement that set innovators apart. Leaders must exhibit these capabilities and interactions both publically and privately to establish a positive culture of innovation.

Ask provocative questions

Leaders of innovative cultures must each other accountable. Accountability is exercised through inquiry, particularly in innovative environments where questioning status quo is the norm (Dyer et al., 2009; Isaksen & Ekvall, 2010). Provocative questions under scrutiny; your assumptions, key elements of your business model and other conventional norms. Click here to learn about the how questions can direct your toward your passion and purpose. Click here to understand why asking better questions is more valuable than pursuing better answers.

Embrace failure, in a controlled manner

Failure is only failure if nothing is learned. Leaders of innovative cultures characterize failure as learning opportunities and building blocks toward the ultimate objective (McGrath, 2011).

Value personnel, front and back end of innovation

Senior executives as well as entry level members of the innovative cultures are leaders (Capozzi, Dye, & Howe, 2011). Executives of Research and Development departments as well as the marketing and accounting directors represent valuable assets to the culture and contribute to the innovative climate (McCreary, 2010). Although in different ways, their input to the innovative climate is integral.


Capozzi, M. M., Dye, R., & Howe, A. (2011). Sparking creativity in teams: An executive's guide. McKinsey Quarterly, 74-81. Retrieved from

Dyer, J. H., Gregersen, H. B., & Christensen, C. M. (2009). The innovator's DNA. (cover story). Harvard Business Review, 87(12), pp. 60-67. Retrieved from

Isaksen, S. G., & Ekvall, G. (2010). Managing for innovation: The two faces of tension in creative climates. Creativity & Innovation Management, 19(2), 73-88. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8691.2010.00558.x

McCreary, L. (2010). Kaiser permanente's innovation on the front lines. Harvard Business Review, 88(9), pp. 92-97. Retrieved from

McGrath, R. G. (2011). Failing by design. Harvard Business Review, 89(4), pp. 76-83. Retrieved from

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