Rethinking Linear Leadership For Creativity And Innovation

If the solution and the destination are determined up front, it leaves little if any room for creativity and innovation…

We live and work in accountability-driven systems. And for that reason, visions and endpoints proliferate our institutions and organizations. Our destinations have often been determined before we ever begin. Not that being outcome-driven is negative, but very often, the path to get to those outcomes has already been mapped out with excruciating detail before ever beginning the journey.

What we fail to realize, is that authentic creativity and true innovation seldom, if ever, occur in a linear fashion.

Too often, we begin with our answer decided, instead of a question considered. And while this controls the process and keeps every one marching in line to one end point. It does little to enhance the creative and innovative abilities and capacity of our people. The process becomes more about implementing, than learning, exploring, discovering and growing.

The more we determine a clear and direct path to one destination, the more often we diminish the creative and innovative thinking, abilities and capacity of our people and organization.

But moving away from this controlling way of operating is easier said than done, for several reasons…

  1. It rubs against what we’ve often been trained to do as leaders (create a vision and lead people towards it in the quickest, easiest and most direct route).
  2. It requires more messy, with a bit of chaos and disorder thrown into the mix (as leaders we have spent most of our training focused on creating neat, orderly, well-run machines).
  3. It will be more demanding, of your people and of your leadership (which goes against our natural inclinations as people and leaders).

As Hill, Brandeau, Truelove, and Lineback share in Collective Genius, ”Innovation requires a large investment of time, energy, and other resources, and leaders need patience and the willingness to learn and change course along the way.”

The problem is that most of our systems have little patience for the time and energy necessary to engage more creativity and innovation. We want it to happen, but we don’t want to put in the effort or hours necessary for that to actually occur.

Which is why it will take a different kind of leader to meet the demands of building up more creative and innovative organizations in today’s world. Or, as they share in Collective Genius it will be “the leader’s ability to navigate these paradoxes” that will ultimately determine if we can begin to unleash the creative and innovative abilities of our people.

“If you want a more innovative organization, you may need to change the way you lead.”  -via Collective Genius


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