Conventional Leadership Won’t Get You Innovation

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Reposted from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge Forum:

“What most distinguishes innovation leadership, Linda A. Hill explains, is recognition that innovation is a “team sport,” not the act of a sole inventor. “Truly innovative groups are consistently able to elicit and then combine members’ separate slices of genius into a single work of collective genius,” the authors write. Or, as Hill puts it, “Conventional leadership won’t get you to innovation.”

At eBay Germany, for instance, the authors found examples of how a maturing company like eBay can retain its innovative spirit. For a holiday promotion, a young project manager and his marketing colleagues launched a “treasure hunt,” working nonstop to launch registration pages, clues, and an hourly countdown clock. Trouble was, the launch violated eBay’s well-established corporate project-development processes. When the treasure hunt began, 10 million contestants logged on, crashing the local servers.

Justus, eBay’s senior VP in charge of Europe, could have stopped this and other similar “micro-projects,” but instead he decided to pursue them and fly under the radar of corporate headquarters. Successful innovations emerged, such as an Easy Lister feature, and separate registration processes for private and business sellers. Later, Justus shared the successes with then CEO Meg Whitman, which led to a global micro-projects strategy.”

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