What every senior exec team needs to be innovative

24 November 2014

Lecturer in Human Resource Management Ann Hutchison.

Successful teams need someone who is unstoppable - but also someone blunt enough to challenge that person.

If you want your organisation to be innovative, your leadership team needs to have unstoppable forces and immovable objects.

"The composition of a senior executive team needs to be a balance of risk-takers and constrainers; there needs to be someone in there who is unstoppable, but also someone in the team who is blunt enough to challenge that person," says Ann Hutchison, a Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Auckland Business School.

It's one of the initial findings from research that is looking into what it is that senior executives of innovative organisations do to support innovation.

Ann, along with Dr Lisa Callagher, are nearing the end of research that has seen them interview leadership teams at some of New Zealand's most innovative businesses that have a track record of successfully commercialising innovative ideas.

The pair say that an innovative organisation is one that is so, across the organisation - from the workshop floor through to the senior management team. The challenge for Senior Executives is knowing how to build that through structuring jobs appropriately, hiring the right people, as well as being role models for innovation themselves.

The total picture is, not surprisingly, complex. To help organisations, the pair have created a diagnostic tool that might help CEOs and their team self-assess their own levels of personal innovation, identifying what might need development or attention.

"Our diagnostic tool will allow executives to assess themselves on the full range of behaviours that are needed to foster the right kind of environment that will allow innovation to flourish.

"It's the final step of our study - we're looking to test our tool on senior executive staff to confirm our findings, and we'll be speaking with CEOs over the coming months, seeing who'll be interested in testing out our diagnostic tool."

Those that agree for their organisation to take part will receive a personal consulting session, outlining the results of the diagnostic tool, along with areas to focus on for their team. In addition, they will, along with other senior business leaders, be invited along to hear the results from the study, when they are presented next July.