Lead Strong Episode 15: Driving digital innovation as a leader

This episode of Lead Strong saw hosts and Directors of Cappfinity’s Talent Practice, Celine Floyd and Stephanie Hopper join with Andy Britcliffe, Chief Digital Officer at Purple Bricks and Andrew Stephen, Advisor at Zero Carbon Forum and Foodsteps, to discuss how leaders can drive innovation, to make it a part of their organizational culture and successfully address any challenges.

What are the barriers to innovation?

Innovation is about solving problems and producing great outcomes.  It doesn’t have to be cutting-edge or disruptive, although this is often the type of innovation we hanker after or remember.  Many people will have a somewhat archaic idea of what innovation is.  It isn’t a lightbulb moment, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be cutting-edge, it just needs to be something that responds to change in a positive way to resolve a problem.

A recent Centre for Creative Leadership survey of 500 senior leaders found that innovation is a key driver of success for 94% of organizations and that of this group, 77% of them had tried to promote innovation in some way.  However, despite this clear desire to drive innovation, only 14% were confident in their ability to do that.

This is part of the problem, businesses and leaders are often afraid to fail because they conceive it to be a weakness.  Leaders need to be comfortable with taking a chance, that might fail or could resolve a problem in a new and innovative way.

Andy Britcliffe noted that Amazon are probably one of the best companies for this, because they’ve accepted failure within their culture and this has led to greater innovation and success.

Innovation can also be difficult to encourage because there is often no immediate return on investment.  It’s a bet that no one can guarantee, but if no one tries to innovate, there will be no innovation.

How can leaders encourage and nurture innovation within their organization?

Leaders need to be deliberate about wanting to drive change and encourage their companies to invest in it.  Andy Britcliffe explained that at Purple Bricks, they have an Innovation Day every two weeks.  This provides an opportunity to be more creative about problem solving and prevents roles from becoming purely transactional.

Leaders can drive innovation by being prepared to stress-test lots of ideas to find solutions that work best for them and their teams.  Use your company’s data to build innovation that’s tailored to your specific needs.  Andrew Stephen believes that the third sector is often best at this because they will do a much more robust review of their sector before they embark on any planned change.

The third sector also spend a lot of time looking at what other people are doing and the direction they’ve taken.  It’s not about just defining competitors, but rather building awareness of where they are and what they need to do to move forward and reach their objectives.

To drive innovation leaders should become comfortable with failure, because without taking a risk no one can move forward.  Be deliberate with innovation and view problems as a chance to come up with a new solution.  Encourage your business to invest in innovation, to lessen the risk of being powered by purely a ‘business as usual’ mindset which leaves little opportunity to innovate.  It may not represent a lightbulb moment, but it can still be a chance to change things for the better for your business and your team.

Watch the full episode here.