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Leadership in the Innovation Age: Four Principles for Leaders

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To flourish in the innovation age companies must change how decisions are made. And change how leaders lead.

To do so you must change how decisions are made, to what I call leadership by experiment.  Moving from politics and PowerPoint, to enabling the idea to prove itself. From boss votes with their opinion, to the customers vote with their feet. From the hierarchy sets the agenda, to the innovators set the agenda.

Leadership by experimentation changes the role of leaders profoundly.  I now see four elements to leadership in the innovation age:

  1. Leaders champion a grand challenge.  Challenge your organization with the problem, not your solution. Grand challenges are ambitious, tangible and memorable, solution-free and focused on your customer (not on yourself).
  2. Leaders install the systems and culture to enable experimentation.  Remove speed bumps in experimenters’ way. Make experimentation easy for everyone in your organization. Ask yourself: What slows my newest employees from testing their best ideas to ace my grand challenge? How much lower can we drive the cost of experiments and the time it takes to get around the lean experiment loop?
  3. Leaders pull insights from successes and failures. The real goal of experimentation is to gain insights used to create business success. Savor the surprises from tests, both positive and negative. Recognize and reward those who pull insights from experiments.
  4. Leaders Live by the same rules themselves. Your own ideas have a leap of faith assumption, how can you test them fast and cheap? Recognize your idea is just one idea. Can your team find and test even better ideas?

Leadership by experiment is the leadership skill for the innovation age.

Image: Intuit Lean Experiments Loop

Scott Cook

Scott Cook is the co-founder of Intuit and Chairman of the Executive Committee.

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