The Hidden Competency of Leadership: Innovation

Prof. Paddy Miller on dealing with" disconnect"

05/09/2012 Johannesburg

2012 Miller, P._047_MEI1_IESE_055565

Driving innovation in large organizations involves dealing with the growing problem of "disconnect" between high-level managers and lower-level employees, says IESE Prof. Paddy Miller, who led a Continuous Education session in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

In his presentation, "The Hidden Competency of Leadership: Innovation," Prof. Miller discussed how several companies have sought to instill innovation and recent research carried out with Capgemini on driving innovation.

"Through the research we did with Capgemini, it has become very apparent that leadership is critical to driving innovation in organizations," he said, following the session. "And we're not talking about product innovation exclusively; we're talking about systems innovation, process innovation and organizational innovation. And how do you embed that in an organization? That becomes the challenge."

The leaders of most large global businesses are saying that the way forward is through ongoing, embedded innovation in their organizations. However, not all managers have a firm grasp of what developing an innovation competency involves, he says.

Being open to new information is critical for unleashing innovation. Some managers feel threatened by new information since it may upend the status quo, while others fear internal political problems, he said.

"Organizations have become sensitive to information and afraid of it, instead of using it," he said. "This causes a greater disconnect between senior management and other employees. Under those kinds of conditions, employees are not inclined to innovate because they fear being punished or cut-off."

Innovation as Usual: How to Help Your People Bring Great Ideas to Life is Prof. Miller's latest book, co-authored with Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg. It will be published by Harvard Business Review Press in the spring.