To encourage innovation, leaders need to stop relying on old ways and become forward-thinkers in an ever-changing world. Below are some actions leaders can take to inspire others to innovate:

1. Follow the 20/80 rule. Leaders need to understand where to innovate. Though most people are familiar with the 80/20 rule, innovation follows the 20/80 rule. It is easier to change twenty percent of an organization eighty percent than to change eighty percent of an organization twenty percent. The trick is to find the top and bottom ten percent and start there.

Growth requires we turn our backs on the middle-way and lean in favor of the unconventional. The middle is dangerous. No amount of serpentine processes can penetrate the essential equilibrium that keeps everything the same.

On the fringes of an organization, where performance reaches beyond standard variance, we find the impulse to try new things precisely because the present condition is intolerable or the opportunity immeasurable. It is only when the firm is compromised that it truly engages its people and enlists them in their own economic survival.


2. Change some of the guard. Leaders should seek out the voices of those who have little stake in tradition–usually the younger, more vibrant individuals. Ask them how to update the old and make the homogenous a little more heterogeneous. Encourage them to push existing boundaries. Create an innovation advisory board–a group that represents the new. While a board of directors keeps things on track, an innovation advisory board deliberately disrupts that track to promote innovative thinking.

3. Leave room for the new. Run experiments to see what works and what doesn’t. Leaders need to be patient with experiments: adjust and tinker with them until they get traction. Actively make available the tools that will stimulate innovation. This requires leaving time and money open. Set aside a pool of funds solely devoted to the development of creative ideas.

4. Just say no. Leaders should have the audacity to turn down clients, customers, and patrons who support the company legacy but not its future. There will always be people who want to give you money to be like you used to be. If you turn their support down, you’ll open up the opportunity for new sectors of growth. Substitute a new program, project, or service for a more traditional option. Establish a second brand or a second track that will attract a new audience.

To learn more about how to lead innovation, check out my blog. You can also see an interview podcast I did that discusses encourages innovation.

This question originally appeared on Quora.


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Leaders need to know their leadership type. My years of research have found that there are four main types:

  • Create: The Artist is clever and creative. They envision change, so their influence is based on anticipating a better future and generating hope in others. Being original is highly prized. They express themselves in spontaneous, creative responses to their surroundings. They are imaginative, able to handle a high degree of ambiguity and are comfortable with abstract ideas. Success for this type is defined by expressing new ideas and prototyping those ideas when possible.
  • Compete: The Athlete is aggressive and decisive. This leader actively pursues goals and targets and is energized by competitive situations. Winning is a dominant objective, and the focus is on external competitors and market place position. These leaders are hard drivers and producers, very demanding of themselves and others. Speed, stealth and discipline are key to their approach. Success for this type is in energizing employees by expanding opportunities for problem solving and redeploying resources. Power is key.
  • Collaborate: The Sage is caring and empathetic. The Sage is aware of others and cares for the needs of individuals. This leader is skilled at both building a community of people and sharing knowledge between them. They seek interactions among community members and allies and use processes like conflict management and consensus decision-making. Their success is defined by the creation of strong relationships through dialogue, trust, and understanding. Outcomes of these collaborative practices are shared values and commitment. They use their team orientation and cooperative nature to accomplish their goals. Morale and commitment are actively pursued.
  • Control: The Engineer is a well-informed technical expert. They are diligent, meticulous, and function-based. They influence others based on the control and management of information. Improving efficiency through process redesign and the implementation of reliable technology is a hallmark of the Engineer. Success for this type is in improving quality through the use of procedures. This leader is risk averse, and seeks to take variation out of the system, valuing standardization and consistency. Measurement is used as a tool to achieve these values.



Once leaders know their leadership type, they need to know where they have strengths and where they don’t. Leaders should know when to use the right tools. A tool kit is not unlike the set of techniques available to leaders: a hammer, a saw, and a wrench are all indispensable when you’re building or repairing something, but they’re not interchangeable. The same occurs when leaders are weighing ideas or possible innovative techniques.

Leaders should also keep an open mind and know their weaknesses. Everyone has a worldview and therefore a bias towards a particular strategy or perspective. Leaders should partner with others that challenge them. Sages and Engineers challenge each other, as do Engineers and Artists. Great leaders will develop the appropriate culture and competencies in their company to produce the desired value proposition. However, leaders typically favor practices that closely resemble their own preferences instead of changing those practices to fit the situation, to the detriment of the organization. Lacking range and knowledge about when you need to enlist others will not result in the desired outcome.

Additional information can be found on my blog at the Huffington Post. The following video goes more in-depth into the four types of innovatorsYou can find out what kind of creative leader you are by taking this quiz.

This question originally appeared on Quora.


Discover the power of constructive conflict and how it can help foster innovation. By reading The Innovation Code, you will learn how to harness tension and transform it into positive energy to successfully implement your innovation projects.

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There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this question that largely stems from the question of degree. I’d say yes, people’s creative abilities can be improved. However, it’s unlikely you’re going to become a creative genius like Einstein or Mozart without some natural talent.

Is everyone creative? Sure they are, but in very different ways and to varying degrees. Our democratic longing to make everyone and everything equal has led us to make creative greatness indistinguishable from an act of personal expression. What is lacking is meaningful appreciation of the different levels of creativity and how we can use them as steps for increasing our own creative potential. Below are the five levels and types of creativity, from the easiest to the most difficult to master, along with suggestions for building creative muscle:

Mimetic Creativity: Mimesis is a term passed down to us from the Ancient Greeks meaning to imitate or mimic. This is the most rudimentary form of creativity. To improve mimetic creativity, travel to new places and meet new people. Be sure to look for patterns and benchmarks, as well as indicators of success or failure so that you have good ideas about what really works and doesn’t and why.

Biosociative Creativity: Biosociative is a term coined by the novelist Arthur Koestler in his celebrated book The Art of Creation to describe how our conscious mind, when relaxed, can connect rational with intuitive thoughts to produce eureka moments. Biosociative creativity occurs when a familiar idea is connected to an unfamiliar one to produce a novel hybrid. Brainstorming is an excellent example of biosociative creativity. You can find a variety of brainstorming methods to boost biosociative creativity on my website .

Analogical Creativity: Analogical creativity uses analogies to transfer information that we believe we understand in one domain, the source, to help resolve a challenge in an unfamiliar area, the target. In essence, analogies are bridges that allow our cognitive processes to quickly transport clusters of information from the unknown to the known, and back again. Analogies can also be used to disrupt habit-bound thinking to make way for new ideas. You can develop your analogical creativity through the “imaginary friend” role storming method whereby you imagine what someone might say or do if faced with a particular challenge.

Narratological Creativity: At its essence, narratological creativity is the art of storytelling. Our personal stories are perhaps the ultimate use of narratological creativity as we invent and reinvent the story of our life. In this way something that is deeply personal becomes allegorical or of mythic significance. You can improve your narratological creativity by practicing the art of storyboarding or by engaging in scenario making to project potential courses of action.

Intuitive Creativity: This final and most challenging level of creativity has often been promoted to the realm of spiritual and wisdom traditions. This is where creativity becomes bigger and possibly beyond us; it transcends our individuality. There are several methods for freeing and emptying the mind – meditation, yoga and chanting to name a few. The basic idea is to distract and relax the mind to create a flow state of consciousness where ideas come easily. The approaches to developing intuitive creativity are too numerous to chronicle here; however, free writing is straightforward way to connect us with our intuitive self by simply observing what flows out of the pen or the tapping of the keys.

As with any learned ability, you have to practice. Even creative geniuses practice all the time. The following article from Fortune Magazine is a good place to find out more. This video about the five levels of creativity may also be helpful.

This question originally appeared on Quora.


Discover the power of constructive conflict and how it can help foster innovation. By reading The Innovation Code, you will learn how to harness tension and transform it into positive energy to successfully implement your innovation projects.

Learn More