Creating Innovation is one of the top 50 executive competencies SOLID identified as critical to your success as an executive. We categorize it as an Execution competency. See the end of this article for an explanation of our competency model.

E1. CREATING INNOVATION: Thinking more outside the box; discovering more possibilities; exploring ways to innovate; challenging pre-existing paradigms; allowing themselves and others permission to explore; tapping into existing creativity or drawing it out from others; creating an environment that supports creativity and innovation.

Creating innovation asks us to think outside the box to discover opportunities and possibilities. It includes developing an environment that supports innovation, creativity, and forward thinking. Innovation allows an executive to proactively create solutions giving them a distinct advantage as they lead their organization.

Steve Jobs had a tremendous strength in creating innovation. He said: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” Jobs is known for proactively creating solutions through innovation and would likely rank high in the competency of Creating Innovation.

An organization needs to draw out creativity and tap into its existing resources, while also challenging pre-existing paradigms. Innovation exists within a culture that allows for trying and failing, and trying and failing again. A culture that embraces these kinds of risks is one that encourages the most creative problem solving – and the most effective.

Creating Innovation is a matter of putting into place the processes, systems, behaviors, and culture that allows new ideas to be easily shared, discussed, and evaluated. It allows for problem solving, discovery, and big ideas from multiple sources. It drives continuous improvement through creativity and thinking outside the box.

It also requires taking risk. To quote Woody Allen: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” Therefore, creating innovation requires significant creativity and calculated risk taking. The executive who overly relies on data will not be able to effectively innovate. To be highly competent in this area, an executive needs to be a creative risk-taker who thinks beyond what currently is, can envision future possibilities, and lead others to innovate. The executive who creates a safe environment to innovate is one that has achieved competency in this area.

Why Does This Competency Matter?

Without the ability to create an environment of innovation, executives are handicapped in their ability to achieve transformational results. This competency helps executives think beyond the obvious, be creative, and solve problems with solutions that are innovative and groundbreaking. When an executive creates an environment of innovation, it becomes a culture that celebrates creativity and unique perspectives.

Cultures like this tend to get more results in shorter periods of time because those who work in them feel free to challenge the status quo with solutions that improve workflows, efficiencies, and productivity, to name a few.

By confronting problems in atypical ways, the executive uncovers blind spots, false beliefs, and even thoughtful solutions. Asking questions that challenge “we’ve always done it this way” allow teams to push forward while others stall, and opens the door for more diverse, fresh perspectives from a wider audience.

How to Discover this Strength

This discovery process requires the executive to take certain risks, including personally challenging existing conditions, and encouraging others to do likewise. Obviously, this is a balancing act. Standard operating procedures must be followed to drive consistent performance and deliver quality work. Great executives have an instinctive ability to know the right amount of innovation to encourage, and when.

As the executive discovers his or her strengths in this area, they are used more frequently with ever increasing levels of calculated risk taking, resulting in greater success. This virtuous cycle provides the positive reinforcement executives need to create a culture that embraces a high level of creative innovation. Top executives aren’t afraid to ask hard questions that get to the root of true innovation. This is a never-ending process of continuous improvement and creative innovation. And it all starts with the first steps of willingness to take some risk and think outside the box.

Our Competency Model

The SOLID Competency Model, based on two decades of research, is founded on the premise that all executive competencies can be categorized into these five groupings: Core Character, Execution, Relationship, Management and Leadership. Executives must master all five categories to achieve excellence in their roles.

This model is useful for gauging and quantifying your skill set, understanding what it takes to be an effective executive, and providing a framework for improving performance. For more information, download “Executive Competencies: What It Takes to Be an Executive.”

Looking constructively at yourself isn’t easy but doing so provides the catalyst for transformational change. Having a balanced, objective look at your skill set and a willingness to be self-critical for the sake of continuous improvement is a major marker of a top executive. Take the next step and download “Eliminate Executive Blind Spots” to explore your strengths and weaknesses, and remove any blind spots you may have.