New book reveals the key attributes of innovation leaders

Innovation Leaders: How Senior Leaders Stimulate, Steer and Sustain Innovation by Jean-Philippe Deschamps is an outstanding book focusing on the key attributes of innovation leaders, and the author's position is that a distinct form of leadership is required for innovation practitioners.

Innovation Leaders: How Senior Leaders Stimulate, Steer and Sustain Innovation by Jean-Philippe Deschamps is an outstanding book focusing on the key attributes of innovation leaders, and the author’s position is that a distinct form of leadership is required for innovation practitioners.

In the book, Deschamps explains why innovation requires a combination of invention, teamwork and implementation in order to achieve economic growth. A key message is that innovation requires structured processes and discipline in order to be a learnable, repeatable and more predictable organizational competency.

Innovation requires effective teams and processes, in addition to creative and inspirational leaders. Core characteristics of innovation leaders are explored. The author writes about front-end versus back-end innovation skills, as well as bottom-up versus top-down skills. There are very different talents required to identify user needs and opportunities at the front-end of discovery, and implementation and launch skills at the back-end of the process are very different disciplines.

Deschamps recognizes that while bottom-up innovation is close to the end consumer, without top management, and specifically the CEO’s support the culture of the organization will reject innovation efforts.

The book goes into a detailed discussion of innovation imperatives, including the desire to do new things, risk management, project execution, and a shift from organizing the business to creating new business.

He identifies four innovation thrusts that are required to define a unique customer value proposition, including the development of new/improved products, processes or services, totally new categories of products or services, totally new business systems or models, and creating new/improved customer solutions. For each innovation thrust there are specific leadership styles identified including:

  • Tough sports coach
  • No-nonsense sponsor
  • Pragmatic architect
  • Orchestra conductor

Excellent discussion and case studies of cultural and leadership issues at a variety of companies are developed throughout Innovation Leaders.

The book concludes by discussing what it takes to hire and develop future innovation leaders with elements of passion, mission, vision and performance; looking for people who have already achieved great results; and intelligence and the ability to learn quickly. J

Jean-Philippe Deschamps is a professor of innovation management at IMD, a leading international Swiss business school, and an innovation practitioner with over 40 years of innovation success.

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