Inspiration: Strategos – The DNA of Innovative Companies: Visionary CEO or Coherent System?

Posted on 12/04/2011

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Strategos Innovation Update skriver:

By Joe Lee, Nate Hutchins, and the Winning Team of Strategos-CBIG Innovation Challenge  

There is no question that Apple has benefited from the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs. Since his return in 1996, Apple has risen from a struggling company with survival in doubt to the “New King of Technology”1.  However, as Jobs recently went on his second medical leave in two years, the prominent question for shareholders, employees, and loyal customers is: Can Apple continue to innovate without Jobs?

Examples abound of wildly creative and ambitious executives boldly leading their companies into uncharted territory and emerging as vibrant, growing organizations. But as with Jobs, each time an innovative leader leaves a company, the organization’s ability to lead progressively in the future comes into question.  Similarly, a broader question emerges regarding the extent to which visionary leadership is essential to realizing growth and innovation at any company, let alone those experiencing a change in leadership.

Can companies achieve breakthrough innovation in the absence of a visionary CEO? Can innovation be embedded into the DNA of an organization, such that it repeatedly brings to market game-changing products and services? Our review of today’s most innovative companies reveals that a systematic approach to innovation can be as effective for driving growth as a visionary CEO, and perhaps even more sustainable over the long run.

The Visionary CEO

 The actions of highly innovative CEOs are often instinctive and reflexive. As such, they are nearly impossible to replicate or imitate systematically.  However, if we step back and look at the rationale and effects of their actions, we can design well-aligned processes, incentives, and systems to deliver similar outcomes. Visionary leaders often create disruptive innovation by re-directing the benefits delivered by their company’s offerings to address consumer needs previously undetected by industry incumbents. Our analysis reveals three behaviors commonly exhibited by leaders in the course of such a transformation.

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