CEOs of the World: What Do You See as Your Primary Role?

In recent conversations with potential users of Innovation Engineering, I have been struck once again by the excitement of the people in the room. It doesn’t take them long to see the potential our system could have in bringing meaning to their work. But they are not the CEOs of their organizations, and when the conversation turns to engaging their CEOs, they get a look in their eyes – a look of dread and sadness.

Clearly a message has been sent that even if you have an idea that could dramatically improve the flexibility and efficacy of your organization, the CEO is not open for business.

I have been caught in that type of culture and it’s very hard on your heart. I wanted to bring value and meaning to my work, but I knew that if I stood up, chances were high that I would be told to sit back down. And in fact, that is what happened, over and over again. So I went back to my corner and polished the heck out of my piece of the puzzle. But the fun was gone out of it. I was polishing something insignificant and I knew it didn’t have to be that way.

So this is my call to the CEOs of the world – what do you see as your primary role?

I believe your job has three parts:

Predict – You are the leader so the organization depends on you to do your best possible job choosing a next direction. As we say in Innovation Engineering, it will be wrong, but it will be useful. You can talk to whoever you want, read whatever trend analysis, sense where the energy lies in the market or in your team. But then you must put it out there in an inspiring, easy-to-understand package. And then you must embody that package every day of your life in all your interactions.

Enable – If you don’t absolutely trust your team, you have an HR problem and you should fix it. But once trust exists, now it is your job to give the team the tools they need to innovate. My bias is that Innovation Engineering is the toolset that covers all the bases, but whatever system you put in place – it’s your job to let your people do their jobs. You focus on predicting and revising your predicting.

Be Joyful – When your team finds an idea that could transform your business, do they have dread in their eyes at the thought of sharing that idea with you? I certainly hope not. I suspect your organization will not last long if that is the case. That’s just not how people want to live anymore, if they ever did. Today’s most creative employees want to live with joy. If you want to retain them, you will embody curiosity and joie de vivre.

I am a Canadian and an American. This week in Canada, the new prime minister Justin Trudeau is bringing a brand new culture to politics. I am mesmerized by the videos of him because he is doing these three tasks all the time. For example, this week he chose a Cabinet of the most fascinating and diverse people you could ever imagine. It is the first Cabinet where half the members are women. When asked why it was important to him to have a Cabinet that was half women, he shrugged and said, “Because it’s 2015.” He knows a diverse team will come up with better ideas.

When you walk through your organization’s space, do you look as joyful as Justin Trudeau? I hope for your health, and the health of your organization, that you redouble your efforts to predict, enable and be joyful. And if you need a system that will allow you to do that, let’s talk about Innovation Engineering. I will do a free session with any CEO to start the process of setting your vision.

Here are resources for CEOs and team members who want to help them build successful organizations:

Innovation – Whose Job Is It? – This blog by the founder of Innovation Engineering sums up this dilemma of who is responsible for innovation in an organization. It explains why people in an “innovation department” will often face a negative response. It’s short and packs a punch.

Tired of Working So Hard? 3 Principles for Making Your Company Fun to Run Again – 35 minute webinar – Covers many basics of Innovation Engineering from a leader’s perspective

Executive Experience – hands-on one day experience for CEOs at Eureka Ranch in Cincinnati, Ohio. The next one is in February 2016.

CEO Testimonials Leaders who leveraged Innovation Engineering to transform their organizations.

Innovation SurveyPrint this innovation survey and have your senior leadership team fill it out. It will give you a great indication about your innovation culture and where to start to grow it.