Innovation SOP: Does Effective Leadership Lead to Effective Crowdsourcing?

Qmarkets’ Innovation Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): In this series, we will present different guidelines on how to bring innovation theory to practice. This week, we take a look at Innovation Leadership – how has the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) evolved into the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO), and how important is leadership in the age of crowdsourcing anyway?

The ongoing digital transformation has now affected every corner of enterprise business. The role of the Chief Information Officer is no exception, with many studies showing that the focus of this role is creeping every towards innovation rather than information. Technology infrastructure is no longer just one element of a successful company, but is now often becoming a foundational pillar of business success. The CINO has been brought out from the server room and given responsibility for leading innovation management to keep the enterprise as a competitive player.

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The Evolution from Management to Leadership

chart11With disruption coming faster, harder, and more frequently than ever, solutions also need to be produced at greater speed and with more creativity. Standardization is no longer a guarantee of proper response; innovative solutions can only be produced by truly flexible teams that are frequently formed through collaborative crowdsourcing. CIOs today need to possess high leadership strategy and innovation skills to create dynamic teams with the trust and collaborative tools necessary to rise to any challenge.

For the last several decades of business practice, enterprises have followed fixed hierarchical structures that depended on employees following standardized rulebooks. Positions like that of the CIO (or its equivalent) were management positions which controlled the way that workers carried out their tasks. However, the disruptive tech of the digital transformation has thrown the rulebooks out the window. Today, Chief Innovation Officers need to lead, not to manage.

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The Importance of Agile Leadership

Management practices only work when companies and workers know what to expect. With curve balls flying at every enterprise on a regular basis, a fixed set of responses is woefully inadequate. When people are managed, they are told what to do and are expected to follow the rules correctly. Essentially, their innovative creativity is restricted and they cannot collaborate freely and brainstorm fearlessly. On the other hand, leading employees from within dynamic teams unleashes innovation. CINOs need to use adaptive leadership strategy and innovation skills in place of their former management toolset.

Chief Innovation Officers need to inspire and engage their employees on an equal footing. Increasingly, authority to command and delegating tasks to underlings is superseded by the importance of leadership to inspire and encourage colleagues to take on their own roles. While enterprises follow a list of objectives, it’s increasingly realized that the people who achieve those objectives are fundamental to success. Innovation management calls for crowdsourcing to flexible teams which are engaged and committed to the process.

It’s important to note that active collaboration is only possible once there is trust between team members. Collaborative work requires coworkers to rely on each other to complete their own tasks and to support each other emotionally and physically. With teams formed and reformed dynamically across departments and outside of the enterprise, Chief Innovation Officers should be continually seeding trust among all employees.

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Leading Collaborative Innovation?

Collaborative innovation is the process of generating ideas from a crowd of individuals, and encouraging them to collaborate on ideas to develop them. This crowd-sourced form of innovation is supported by a software platform such as Qmarkets’ award winning idea and innovation management products. This process can be fully automated, so after the initial setup period, leadership duties for the CIO/CINO can actually be relatively slim. At this point, it’s instead crucial to involve leadership figures at the company to engage the full workforce. Studies have shown that employees are much more likely to be involved if they see their superiors participating first, starting with the CEO.

Furthermore, true collaborative innovation comes without a series of assigned roles. A management approach would be to give each team member their own task and command them to fulfill it. Leadership, however, engages employees to define innovation roles, share out the work and commit themselves to completing it. When team members feel individually and collectively responsible for the entire project, they bring forward solutions along with suggestions for outcome-based metrics and performance markers to assess their success.

Of course, collaboration needs some form of structure to avoid a breakdown into confusion, but it’s important that the CINO recognizes that their job is not to control the team discussion or enforce work practices, assignments, or timelines. That approach would undermine the effectiveness of digital collaboration and work against the need to build trust within the team. Instead, they should view themselves as one of the team, structuring and supporting flexible collaboration rather than ordering it. Chief Innovation Officers need to provide just enough structure and involvement to maintain focus and inspire creativity, without stifling innovation beneath a blanket of rules and systems.

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Knowing when to Lead and when to Follow

Digital transformation has certainly added leadership strategy and innovation skills to the list of attributes that a CIO/CINO should possess, but not necessarily all the time. Ultimately, a good Chief Innovation Officer needs to be able to trust their colleagues to succeed, which as we mentioned above is the first step for collaboration. Now that CINOs have become innovation partners within their enterprise, they need to know how to guide crowdsourcing and oversee dynamic teams. The challenge of knowing how to lead wisely involves extensive people skills. Chief Innovation Officers should know when to take control and when to step back. Being able to nurture good communication across departments and inspire team members from both within and outside of the company is now vital for CINOs.

Qmarkets offers an extensive toolkit for leadership strategy and innovation within a team setting and successful collaboration even at a distance. Check out how our products can support your Chief Innovation Officer’s leadership skills.

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