Leader, do you also feel there is no time to innovate? 

I would like to start quoting J.R.R.Tolkien: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

In Lord of the Rings, the moment of this phrase is when Gandalf brings hope to Frodo, who is tired, in pain and realising the weight of the burden he has to carry. Gandalf does not ask for him to ignore, or say that this is silly what he is feeling, no. He indeed confirms the weight of the challenge he is into, but encourages him with that phrase above that highlights something simple, but powerful: There are many things in our destiny that we can not change, but there are many others we can and that, depends only with what do we prioritise in our time. 

I could exemplify this mindset in several dimensions of our life, but I want just to focus now only in one: innovation in corporations.

This quote already brings the main point of this post: yes, we have time. And everyday we are making decisions on what to prioritise for our teams, for the day, week, projects, budget, etc.

Time, is the same for everyone. 

When we say: “Time is too short”, “I don‘t have time for that”, in the end, is not about the amount of things you include in your agenda for the day, but what are you prioritising.

There is no right or wrong, it is just about decisions we make.  

Talking with colleagues that shares the same career path of bringing innovation into corporations, one of the most common thing we all hear is that people don’t have time for innovation, because they have too much to do. But actually what they are saying is that this is not priority for them. 

And, when we realize on their daily tasks, demands and activities, that is true, innovation is very often not a concrete demand from the company for their leaders and teams. 

If they are not demanded, not measured and not recognised by innovation, why should they invest their time on it? 

But, during the last years, I have also met a lot of leaders that succeeded to deliver great results from current businesses and in pursuing innovation at the same time. 

And I have seen some things in common: 

  • They include innovation in they team’s agenda 

If the leader doesn’t prioritise it in the teams agenda, nobody will. 

The team needs to feel the openness from the leader to be able to share ideas and also, problems. To have a space and place to talk and interact. 

A moment on the weekly team meeting to brainstorm all together on the problems and challenges they are facing, or on opportunities they may have found is already a valuable start. 

When the team feels that the leader is willing to hear their thoughts, critics and ideas, that is the start of an environment propitious to innovation, and will also create this bonding and synergy to make this growth together.

  • The leader’s agenda is dedicated for managing results, people, coordinate plans and to promote continuous improvement.

The best person to understand how the department and projects performance are aligned with the company results and objectives, is the leader.

By doing this they can support and intervene on problems in advance and to help the teams at the right timing. 

As the leader is the one who can see from above the operational activities from his department from one side, and the interface with the company strategies on the other side, he is able to promote strategic directions, change in priorities and propose new projects to deliver the company big goals.

As the team members are most part of their attention and the time on the operational activities that they were entitled to, the leader should be the one looking from the “forest view” and to be able to see the number of rework,  troubles and unnecessary tasks and to invite them to rethink the process/project and dedicate to improvements. 

Continuous improvement on the daily processes is the best investment of time, because is the base to liberate precious time and talent from the team from operational tasks to dedicate into what adds more value for the business.

  • They let go of operational activities

At the point the person comes to a leadership position, sometime he/she brings the routines and the passion for some activities, but it very important to learn how to let it go, and trust the team that will conduct the activities. 

At the managerial position, learning to let operational activities behind is very important to liberate time to all the tasks that the manager is needed to make. 

  • They invest on the team’s capabilities  

Trusting the team, and promoting their development is the best investment for their motivation and also to promote new ideas and insights. Investing in degrees, certificates, events, exhibitions, congresses, bring fresh ideas into the routines. 

The team feels also more motivated and is natural the wish to bring what they have learned into the department. 

  • They invest time on network, inside and outside the organization 

Building network and contacts inside and outside the organization is crucial to learn from other companies, making benchmark visits to nurture on insights, and also to promote the work and results from the department into the market. 

All off those activities are just major topics that I have seen leaders dedicating their agenda, but there must be a balance, and I am sure that there must be other activities that are also promoting innovative culture inside departments, that could also be shared. 

One important thing is to have in mind that we are always learning and there is always time to try something new. 

In case you have read until here, I will be more than glad to read your comments and thoughts on this topic and will invite you to think on the first quote I’ve wrote: “What are you doing with the time that is given to you?”

Carolina Frodl


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