Skip to main content

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Lots of leaders say they want their employees to "think outside the box" and be creative and innovative. But many organizations don't take the steps needed to make that happen. Companies need to, though, since fostering a culture of innovation produces exponential growth that every business must seek.

Here are some key skills that will produce growth:

Story continues below advertisement

Be a discovery-driven leader

Those who drive innovation within their organizations spend about four months a year in discovery. They focus their efforts on the planning, analysis and execution of the organization's strategic objectives – and are extremely detailed and self-disciplined.

As Hal Gregersen, a professor of leadership and innovation at France-based graduate business school Insead, often asks: "What if you spent a third of your work week paying attention to new possibilities? What if you took an intellectual step back to uncover what growth opportunities you might find? What would you do next?"

Ask the right questions

Critical to any opportunity for discovery or innovation, asking the right questions is essential. Ask "why not?" Or "what if?" Brainstorm the questions and push yourself. Don't be limited to one or two – explore by asking as many questions as possible.

Get out of your office

Take the time to observe customers, services and products. Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley not only visited his customers in various countries but also set time aside to speak with consumers in those places.

Story continues below advertisement

Examine your network

Who do you speak to? How often do you spend time outside the office to gain valuable insights? To drive any innovation, diversity is required. Doing the same thing every day in the office means you won't ever hear what others outside your industry are saying about the future. To network effectively, you need to open yourself up to discussions happening all around you and really listen to what people are saying.

Pay attention to new technologies

Go outside your business, looking at the technologies on the horizon. They may be a source of innovation. They will definitely influence your work tomorrow.

Experiment and recreate

Try out new things, take apart products, processes and ideas, and recreate them. Test-drive rapidly and cheaply. The world is changing and ideas are being generated globally. Analyzing and getting to 100 per cent before every launch is not an acceptable methodology – it dooms you from the start.

Story continues below advertisement

Free associate

Take ideas and products and put them together in ways that you wouldn't necessarily think possible to create something different. If you train your brain to carry these thoughts and associate them, it will drive innovation to within your grasp.

Look outside your industry

There are new threats and opportunities to your business that are not from current competitors. Most industries will be disrupted by technologies on the horizon, or those already available. You are either a disruptor or you are being disrupted. You should disrupt the current way of doing business and reap the benefits of exponential growth.

Leon Goren (@LeonGoren) is president and chief executive officer of Presidents of Enterprising Organizations, a leadership training organization.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies