TED Talk Takeaways: The 3 qualities of innovative companies

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In this week’s installment of TED Talk Takeaways we look at what it takes to create a culture of innovation and inspire creativity.

Linda Hill is a professor of business administration at the Harvard School of Business, and the author of Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership and Collective Genius. She is also the co-author, along with Kent Lineback, of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives of Becoming a Great Leader.

At the start of her TED Talk, Hill delivers the core message. “What many of us know about leadership does not work when it comes to leading innovation.”  To arrive at her conclusions, Hill spent nearly 10 years studying 16 different leaders with hundreds of hours on the ground observing and taking notes.

As the talk progresses, she reveals the essential qualities that a business must have to be the type of leader that inspires innovation and cites Pixar as a prime example. The bottom line, she says, is that businesses must unlearn our conventional notions of leadership.  She adds, “Leading innovation is not about creating a vision and inspiring others to execute it.”

Innovative organizations possess three qualities: creative abrasion, creative ability, and creative resolution. Abrasion relates to creating a marketplace of ideas through debate and discussion. Innovative companies amplify differences rather than minimize them because that’s how they create a portfolio of ideas.

Creative agility means testing and refining ideas through reflection and adjustment. It focuses on using discovery driven learning and combining the scientific method with the creative process to run experiments rather than pilots.

Last of all, creative resolution is the ability to make decisions that combine opposing ideas to create a new, innovative solution.

“Innovative organizations learn how to inquire. They learn how to actively listen. But guess what? They also know how to advocate for their point of view. They understand that innovation rarely happens unless you have diversity and conflict,” says Hill.

“When you look at innovative organizations, they never go along to get along,” she says. “They don’t compromise. They don’t let one group or one individual dominate even if it’s the boss, even if it’s an expert. Instead, they develop a rather patient and more inclusive decision-making process that allows for both end solutions to arise, and not simple either-or solutions.”

In the end, Hill reveals that leadership is the secret sauce, but it’s not the same type of leadership that we often think about. Leading innovation means creating a workplace where people are engaged and willing to share their ideas with the group.

With Pixar, no movie is ever the product of just one person’s mind. It takes 250 people four years to make one of those movies, so Pixar understands that it takes a village, not an individual, to inspire innovation.

“Our role as leaders is to set the stage, not perform on it,” says Hill. “If we want to invent a better future, then we need to reimagine our task. Our task is to create the space where everybody’s slice of genius can be unleashed, harnessed and turned into works of collective genius.”

For the other TED Talks Takeaway we published, on timely startups, go here

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Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell is a freelance journalist, copywriter and poet from Mississauga who now lives in Montreal. His byline has appeared in many newspapers and websites such as The National Post, The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, and Torontoist. He's an expert profiler and has interviewed many notable personalities such as KISSmetrics founder Neil Patel, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray, and Hollywood actor Michael Rooker. If you want to find out more about him, visit his website and follow him on Twitter @riddellwriter.
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