Why Coaching for Innovation?

As innovation becoming more demanding of leaders, organization now realize that technology alone wouldn’t be able to achieve their innovation goals. Leaders now found out that the people felt “left behind”, unwanted and confused. There’s so much animosity around innovation implementation as well as business or digital transformation towards that. 

It seems, the high tech innovation that we brag about all these years requires some human touch eh? Yes we do, if we want to make it work and integrating well for long term. One of the tools that you can use is coaching. 

Why do you need coaching in innovation?

Other than just the familiarity of the innovation tools such as design thinking, agile, scrum, lean, strategic thinking, business model canvas, blue ocean and many others; there’s a deeper hurdle left ignored. Hurdle to make change; and change is always difficult, emotional and constant. 

Leaders with foresight know, that coaching will help them change from “me” perspective to “we”. Say, in an ideation lab, the leader’s ideas opposed, he will still feel comfortable. In fact a well coached leader would welcome opposition because it will enrich the discussion. Besides, it empowers the team. Not about me, it is we.

In another situation, when an idea is risky, poor leaders will not support. A confidently coached leader, besides the mantra “doing it right from the first time”, he’d put his neck on the choppin’ to experiment a wild idea although it might fail. His new mantra is “you either make it or learn”. The word failure now taken a back seat or eliminated. 

The speed of activities is another hurdle in implementing big scale innovation. There are so many things to do. Right from the augmented customer experience, digital touch points, integration of big data, interpreting analytics, artificial intelligence bots, blockchain in smart contract, mobile first solutions to drones operation. 

How just a leader with all these new stuffs lead? Can you imagine a senior vice president at the age of 55 going to chew while keeping his sanity? It will be too much and he might be too occupied delivering his strategic function – which is more valuable due to his/her knowledge. This is another area where coaching could help. 

A coachable senior leaders would gain through giving trust early in the relationship particularly with their direct reports. How many senior leaders do you see still unable to let go certain operational meetings because it “seems” all important to them? In times of innovation like now, decision making has to be fast and getting immediate feedback should be faster. It is also should be expected, the direct reports would make some mistakes along the way as part of their learning curve. Fail early, fail often. 

In some organizations, they are still stuck at the “over analysis becomes paralysis” situation. After round and rounds of meetings, no one seem to be willing to call the shot. Because innovation about venturing to uncharted waters, a coached leader will demonstrate higher tolerance for ambiguities and can live with “just enough” information to make a next step decision. With tools such as 2×2 quadrant or A/B testing or BMC, these well informed leaders will advance further; the rest still in another meeting.

To be an innovative leaders, coaching could help to unlearn and minimize biases of past experiences. Where the culture could be dry, brazen and unwelcoming, these coached leaders turn them around so ideas thrived, people become responsive again and businesses nourished. The best innovations in the world only flourished when a corporate culture supports and drives them forward. 

Because of the change component that comes together with innovation, there’ll be always tension of opinions, resources squabble and constant realignments. Besides, strategy is not just another management retreat or document. A strategic innovation leaders know, there’s a need to discuss qualitative data, customer pain points, challenge assumptions and question “facts” at hand; although it may not be related to his own department. Furthermore, a coached innovation leader will not stop there. He will ensure the organization have taken serious and structured considerations including influencing the board of directors to discuss innovation as the top agenda in the board meeting. 

By coaching for innovation, leaders role is reimagined to be more assertive, substantive and collaborative to make the organization future ready. Leaders, you can still keep your pride, but please don’t lose your shirt. Go coaching!

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