How does an organization achieve innovation while maintaining peak operating efficiency? That’s the conundrum at the core of an imperative leadership challenge—in fields from the medical and biological sciences to architecture, fashion, and the arts. What can managers do to harness passionate, visionary people and channel their creative energy into tangible, profitable business outcomes without snuffing out their spark? In short, how can innovative companies think outside the box?
Over the course of her two-decade career at Corning, Inc., Lina M. Echeverría grappled with the tension between creative freedom and management rigor, and gradually found a successful, rewarding balance. She shares her journey of discovery from the trenches of innovation efforts at an industrial technology powerhouse in IDEA AGENT: Leadership That Liberates Creativity and Accelerates Innovation. Within the framework of her experience—from being a frustrated, spirited “creative” in a department of rigid pragmatists to leading teams with frequently clashing perspectives, approaches, and styles—Echeverría offers insights, principles, and practices for all organizations that need both creative breakthroughs and compliance with business standards and systems to thrive.
“The secret successful enterprises know is that harnessing creativity requires researchers, developers, manufacturers, and marketers working together, rather than constantly battling over goals and priorities,” Echeverría asserts. “Innovation thrives under a leader who internalizes and lives by the belief that to excel you must start with a group; to excel you must create a culture; and to excel you must manage one by one—one person at a time, one situation at a time.”
Here are 4 tips adapted from her book Idea Agent:
- Get to know the creatives on your team—their passions, idiosyncrasies, and strengths—and embrace creative conflict as inevitable and beneficial to business.
- Create a space for discovery and invention including forums, autonomous time for intuitive flow, and group gatherings.
- Clearly define expectations and insist on a commitment to teamwork.
- Establish an organizational structure, with clearly defined roles, links, and responsibilities, that supports and directs creativity.
Learn more about Lina Echeverría’s story in her book IDEA AGENT: Leadership That Liberates Creativity and Accelerates Innovation.
For more insights and business strategies, sign up for our free leadership newsletter, Leader’s Edge.
Learn to inspire creativity and innovation with AMA seminars.