In my last post, I discussed how, as trusted advisors to our clients, our role is to help them innovate — and I provided a few examples of how my team is doing just that. Here, I go a step forward to discuss how to lead the charge.
Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare.
— Japanese proverb
Remember that innovation is everyone’s job. There are plenty whose primary mandate is to innovate: product managers, product marketers, research and development professionals, scientists and engineers. For them, it’s in their DNA. Problem is, they usually aren’t sitting in the HR department.
So as a talent acquisition professional, how can you lead innovation in your organization? My view is that driving innovation is more about mindset than it is about technical competence.
- Above all else, innovative leaders are people who think, act and make decisions through the lens of an innovator. They apply that lens — which is creative and free-form in its early stages, becoming practical and action-oriented as time progresses — to everything they do as leaders.
- Innovative leaders see their primary role as being creators of things, the same way innovators do. But instead of new products, processes and services, they create and cultivate work teams, cultures, environments, employee capabilities, support processes, metrics and strategic plans.
- Innovators are proactive and optimistic. They’re good at detecting trends, and being able to see the forest — the big picture — for the trees. They look for patterns, whether it’s things that are always going wrong, or things that are always going right. They understand how they can translate learnings from those patterns into improved organizational performance.
- They anticipate the future and move their organization towards it. They understand that innovation must be equal parts shiny objective (unique and compelling), different from what the competitor has to offer (so we can win), and scalable (to create momentum).
And here’s the key: innovative leaders understand how to turn these big picture ideas into real, measurable outcomes. When confronted with a challenge, they don’t give up or fall into the trap of chasing down a rabbit hole. Instead, they step back and reframe the problems into outcomes they want to deliver.
Traditional leaders usually see their role as one of problem solver, or firefighter. They’re reactive, and focused on short-term tactics and punch-lists. They’ve learned to quickly prioritize and attack problems and get them off their plate.
With this mindset, many of these leaders become go-to problem solvers because that’s their primary purpose. This mindset causes many leaders to try and address big and important strategic issues such as diversity, safety or employee engagement as problems to be solved rather than outcomes to create.
Don’t get me wrong — we need problem solvers in every company, too. But if you want to be an innovative leader — one who transforms, rather than fixes — it means changing your mindset. And no-one is better equipped to innovate in talent acquisition than people who do it every day.