In his Harvard Business Review article, Innosight’s Scott Anthony identified several unintentional leadership behaviors that kill innovation culture in great firms, illustrated using four “Innovation Assassin” archetypes: The Cowboy, the first Innovation Assassin, unnecessarily encourages his/her workers to innovate without bounds. The Googlephile, inspired by stories of how Google and 3M ask engineers to spend fifteen per cent of their time dreaming of new ideas, mandates that his/her employees carve out a portion of their working hours to focus on innovation. The Astronaut, the third Innovation Assassin, pushes for moon shots (“something big”) too often. Lastly, The Pirate has a lack of clear rules when it comes to obtaining resources for innovation

Companies have so much trouble when it comes to innovation not because its employees don’t have what it takes to successfully innovate – academic research shows that almost anyone can become a competent innovator. Leaders in companies need to actively work on disarming these Innovation Assassins by following six steps:

  1. Create the narrative. Leaders need to create a powerful narrative about tomorrow’s organization.
  2. Get granular. Define desired ways of working and blockers in appropriate detail.
  3. Hack habits with behavior enablers, artifacts and nudges. Design and adopt new everyday workplace practices to encourage behaviors and overcome blockers.
  4. Join the journey. Have top leaders roll-up their sleeves and actively learn new behaviors and mindsets.
  5. Change the questions. Leaders need to ask employees the right questions that encourage learning, as opposed to questions that force answers and narrow options.
  6. Connect the systems. Connect efforts to resource-allocation systems (budget, projecting funding, capital allocation, rewards).

Since Innovation Assassins are easy to identify, they are also easy to disarm. Integrating these six steps in your leadership team can help you constrain the Cowboy, bound the Googlephile, ground the Astronaut, and make the Pirate walk the plank.

If any of these Innovations Assassins are lurking in your workplace, try our Innovation Culture sprint.