An overview of some key established and emerging innovation concepts for leaders

By Gaia Grant

Listed here in Part 1 of this innovation guide are a few key terms and concepts surrounding innovation mindsets and culture that can be helpful to know when navigating innovation.

Innovation mindsets: Entrepreneurship + Intrapreneurship

About the terms. Entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are individuals who are driven by the ambition to introduce new business ideas. The difference between the two terms is the context: while entrepreneurs start up independent businesses, intrapreneurs work inside established companies.

Entrepreneurship (from the French meaning to ‘undertake’, and related to the Sanskrit meaning ‘self-motivation’) is the risky act of setting up a business with limited resources in the hope of making a profit. Professor Howard Stevenson of Harvard Business School famously described entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled.”

Intrapreneurship describes a team or person who pursues entrepreneurial opportunity under the aegis of a sponsor organisation, usually within its walls.

Why you need to know. Companies that neglect employees with entrepreneurial capabilities typically see 70% of workers leave their organisation and successfully implement ideas on their own. Identifying and developing innovation leaders and champions can ensure valuable resources are supported.

Innovation culture: Exploration + Preservation > Ambidextrous

About the terms. Sustainable product innovation has been found to require two apparently contradictory yet complementary functions:

Explorative innovation seeks to bring to market a new invention or product as a result of intensive R&D, intended to disrupt existing markets and gain a significant competitive advantage.

Exploitative innovation focuses on incremental development, seeking to bring to market new product offerings by iterating on existing solutions as a natural progression using available technology.

Similarly, leading an innovation culture has been found to require two orientations:

Exploration, through creating an open, flexible, collaborative environment.

Preservation, through providing opportunities to focus, operate independently along with stable systems and structures to support growth and change.

Ambidextrous organisations (and by extensions leaders) are able to balance both functions simultaneously, and able to provide a culture that supports both.

Why you need to know. Disruptive innovations continue to usurp market share from traditional players and in some cases, bring about new industries. Leaders are increasingly aware that innovation frameworks are needed within companies that wish to stay competitive. Yet there is often not much thought put into how to create and lead a culture that supports both innovation functions simultaneously.

Want to learn more?

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will explore key terms and definitions to understand innovation methodologies, processes and focus.

Visit the link below to download a complimentary WHITE PAPER containing our independent research on how leaders can build a sustainable innovation culture.

Whitepaper contents:

  • Leadership traits that embody ambidextrous innovation.
  • How to identify and balance key innovation paradoxes within your organization.
  • Best practice implementation strategies to develop a sustainable innovation culture.
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To find more resources on recognizing, establishing and leading an innovation culture in an organization click here.

Gaia Grant (PhD) is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Sydney Business School in the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, focusing on research into innovation paradoxes and ambidextrous leadership. Gaia is also a Director of Tirian Innovative Solutions, & the co-author (with Andrew Grant) of a number of books including ‘The Innovation Race’, and “Who Killed Creativity?”.

Andrew Grant is the Director of Tirian Innovative Solutions, and co-author (with Dr Gaia Grant) of a number of books including ‘The Innovation Race’, and “Who Killed Creativity?”.