Visionary Leadership: Seth Kahan on the Pragmatics of Innovation

One of the most difficult challenges of good leadership development is bridging vision from theory into clear, effective practice.Too many managers fail in leadership initiatives because they’re applying techniques they only  understand as theory. The key to becoming a better leader is finding ways to live the values and beliefs behind the vision. That means practical steps, or as Seth Kahan says, “real world pursuits” to support leadership goals. Here are seven focused activities to turn visionary leaders from innovative thinkers into successful innovative doers.

From Kahan’s “Monday Morning Mojo”

“These seven real-world pursuits are what make the difference between those who are haphazardly shooting in the with good ideas and those who consistently and systematically uncover potential, capitalize on opportunity, and generate traction that drives success in the marketplace.

The Seven Key Activities are:
1.    Pursue and Leverage Inflection Points
A positive inflection point is a game change that shifts circumstances decisively in your favor. Expert innovators are able to sense their potential before they take place and then drive offerings to stimulate the events that lead to these dramatic shifts. When harnessed they are like waves of activity that can propel you forward, growing your base, increasing the offerings your customers buy, generating loyalty, and moving you up-market.

2.    Build Innovation Capacity
The systematic development of new products and services relies on your ability to contain and channel innovation’s inherent stresses. Strong innovation leaders recognize this and intentionally cultivate the people and the environment that provide the necessary foundation of leadership, talent and idea management,.

3.    Collect Intelligence
The best innovation rises from a sea of information about products, services, customers, competitors, market conditions and internal capabilities. Use my eight steps of an effective business intelligence effort to collect the information you need to make the right strategic decisions.

4.    Shift Perspective
In order to see new opportunity you must be able to get out of your own box. There are proven techniques and tactics capable innovators use to question their own assumptions. This allows them to see the world through alternative and helpful points of view. You can learn to apply those techniques and tactics to your business.

5.    Exploit Disruption
Disruption is part of business life today. Successful leaders know how to identify the opportunity embedded in adverse conditions. They identify windows of opportunity in which they can turn turmoil to their advantage.

6.    Generate Value
Value is what causes people to reach in their pockets and separate from their hard-earned cash. It is what drives investors to invest, shoppers to shop, and people to fly around the world just to trade with each other. Skillful innovators understand what drives value, what it looks like to customers and any number of stakeholders, and how to generate value by delivering something more, better, or new.

7.    Drive Innovation Uptake
Every stage of this process holds opportunity to introduce new ideas into the market and engage the community of people who will be most interested in your offerings. Uptake, or market acceptance, occurs through the well-tended generation of mutual value. Innovation leaders intentionally drive this uptake, seeking to control adoption for maximum effect.

Maybe a little overwhelming in its scope, but taken step by step, this is good advice for visionary leaders. Have you had success with any of these best practices? Are there other ways you’ve built a bridge between intention and action, vision and practice? Let us know!

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