Leadership teams in organizations must ensure learning happens continuously and is part of its operating cycle. Tuck Business School’s Professor Vijay Govindarajan and GE’s Susan Peters expressed this point of view in a recent Businessweek article, citing the example of GE, which launched a leadership development program called "Leadership, Innovation and Growth" (LIG) five years ago.
LIG is designed to stimulate growth and innovation from within the organization, and creates new ways to think and talk about innovation, so that it would grow into part of how leaders operate their business. Leadership teams from across GE’s top 60 businesses have since participated in the program, and have learned how to translate innovative ideas and opportunities into initiatives with real results.
Professor Govindarajan and Peters also explained why innovation is so important to nurture today, highlighting that it will be at a premium as organizations strive to uncover new opportunities for growth. Yet many leaders have trouble thinking about (let alone driving) innovation when they're focused on managing through the still-challenging present.
As GE prepares to launch the next iteration of LIG (focused on global growth), the authors consider how organizations can teach innovation to their leaders and teams, so that these employees can make what they learn in the classroom part of how they operate day-to-day. Here's the execution road map:
- Keep intact teams together for development - leadership development programs often fall short of driving real change because managers don't go through the learning process together;
- Secure leadership support – ie. reinforcing the message from the top down. This can be seen at GE, with Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt participating in LIG and other development programs;
- Leverage actionable frameworks – as an example, GE applies a "three-box" framework to strategic planning that helps leaders balance managing through the present, which is largely about driving efficiencies, and creating the future, which is about innovation;
- Create a common language – ie. constructing a common vocabulary team members can easily understand and adopt;
- Conduct extensive follow-up – this can increase the impact of training by retaining various touch points to see how participants integrate innovation strategies into everyday operations; and
- Sharing best practices - as successes emerge, leaders should encourage teams to share them.