I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a leader who enables innovation and growth. In speaking with thought leaders like Joseph Fuller, Elizabeth Altman, and Tiffani Bova, and reviewing our own research at Outthinker Networks, I’ve noticed an important pattern. We’ve long thought about strategy as defining the business you’re really in when it comes to your customers. Yet at the same time, maybe the business you’re in is to create great work for people. Why should customers be more important than employees?
As a leader, your work is to create jobs that inspire and empower people.
Think for a moment of a farmer. Farmers do not make crops grow. They create adequate conditions in which seeds can grow into crops and thrive. In the corporate farm, ideas are the seeds, and the corporate culture is the soil. That soil can allow innovation to rise, through norms, relationships, interactions, and the right environment. Or it can prevent ideas from growing, by installing innovation barriers and blockers. It takes just the right soil for the corporate farm to thrive—too much order can break the spirit of creativity and too much chaos leads to nothing getting done.
A great leader empowers a culture that releases great ideas inside all employees.
Our latest Outthinker Network research reveals that emerging decentralized models can create and empower this culture in four ways:
- By treating employees like intrapreneurs
- By breaking down large hierarchical units into smaller teams
- By giving these small teams more autonomy to make decisions
- By allowing teams to choose which support services (HR, finance, etc.) they want to use
Companies that follow these characteristics are better able to attract and retain top talent and are outperforming financially.
Do you know what it takes to be an innovation farmer?
On October 26, 2023, I’m leading a live masterclass on how to foster a culture of intrapreneurship in your organization. You’ll learn:
- More about the organizational design characteristics that are most conducive to intrapreneurship
- Some common misconceptions about intrapreneurship
- Data to sell your intrapreneurial goals internally to senior leadership
This event is free and open to all. I hope to see you there!