Leading Through Innovation

Recently, Steve McBeth, founding President of Disney Interactive Worldwide, joined Trent Dunham on the Cause+Effect podcast and shared leadership insight related to innovation that we hope will empower and encourage you in important decisions.

When you hear the word innovation, do you feel excitement or hesitation?

Whether or not you see yourself as an innovator, embracing new ideas in 2022 is not only necessary, it’s crucial.

Far too many nonprofits, ministries, and churches seem to be married to the way things have always been, afraid to rock the boat. As a result, they don’t allow people to present ideas, much less test them or bring them to market.

And if you’re unwilling to do that in 2022, you’re going to inevitably get left behind.

So where do you start?

  1. Adopt an open door policy.

Before you check out, we’re not saying to let anyone and everyone in your office with the next best thing, all hours of the day. But there are constructive ways to be approachable and create a system in which a certain group of people can come to you with fresh ideas.

You want to create an environment in which people can offer vision without the risk of being immediately shut down. It really comes down to a mindset and willingness to say, “Let’s talk about it.”

And that, in essence, has most to do with the overall culture of your organization.

  1. Protect your people.

Have the confidence to lean into new ideas. And beyond that, be careful to protect the people who are bringing ideas to the forefront.

If a leader at the top voices support and protection, others can come alongside that person as champions. Organizations are energized when there’s a sense of championship.

And if you are the one presenting the idea, you need to be ready with a three-minute pitch. In our digital day and age, the ability to succinctly and clearly state your idea and desired outcome is so important.

As a leader, not only should you protect your people, you should protect your time. As you’re giving direction and vision, you need to have an emotional pulse of the organization to drive things forward effectively. That takes intuitiveness, and there’s an art to that science. You need time to take those assessments rather than simply shooting from the hip.

  1. Nurture fragility.

Innovation is fragile until it’s inevitable.

While an idea is being formed and plans and efforts are put into place, things are not always smooth sailing. There are questions, and doubts, and most often, you’ll encounter opposition along the way.

Then often, a switch flips. You suddenly have momentum, and now it’s time to manage people, processes, and strategically integrate the idea into the organization.

But don’t be surprised if fear and territorialism kick in when people see that it’s working and inevitable.

So your first opposition comes with the idea, and then the second wave comes when it’s no longer an idea – it’s going to happen and people may feel threatened. It’s important to talk about those two dynamics as a leadership team in order to follow the innovation curve.

  1. Be a team player.

As a leader, on the front side, you protect the innovator. On the backside of a new idea, you protect the organization. Not only is the top leader vital in this process, but the entire leadership team is as well. If the team doesn’t buy into the formula as described, you’re going to unravel around the edges.

If department heads are not acting as though they’re comfortable with the initial effort, if they’re behaving fearfully or questioning the process, everyone else will too. The organization looks to the leadership team to see whether people are buying into this idea. It’s truly a team effort. And that’s true whether you have 15 people or 15,000 people.

 The truth is not everyone is thrilled with the thought of innovation. It’s not for everyone. Many leaders want to help organizations grow and develop, but they may not have an innovation mindset. This may be a muscle that’s completely atrophied within your organization.

That’s why innovation takes a leader who is willing to foster and implement it.

And it’s not just a “one and done” at an offsite retreat, innovating for a day. It’s a permeating cultural distinctive of an organization.

 Take some time this week to brainstorm with your team as to what this might look like for your ministry or organization as you start to exercise that innovation muscle.

Because one thing is for sure: Innovation will always be there. And it will always be needed.

For practical help in creating a culture of innovation in your workplace, be sure to listen to the Cause+Effect Podcast episode, Leading Through Innovation” with Steve McBeth.

+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “5 Questions Every Leader Should Ask

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.