The mantra of “Clarity, Confidence, Commitment” is commonly invoked in organizational management best practices to stress the importance of Leadership inspiring confidence, and ultimately commitment, through clear communication of strategic objectives in the context of clearly defined organizational structure and processes. This clear communication and established structure will enable individuals to understand their role and objectives facilitating the best decision-making for the organization.
However, this approach of simply handing a clearly communicated strategic vision down to the well-oiled machine can fall apart for innovation efforts when, by definition, these efforts are likely to demand a change from what has served so well on other projects. Even though strategic objectives may be clear, it is likely that the team will find unanticipated barriers within the organizational structure, processes or culture. Unfortunately, waiting until deep into execution to discover this mismatch between organizational competence and the specific innovation project requirements will cause organizational confidence to erode with potentially disastrous consequences.
Fostering Innovation through Introspection and Clarity
When tackling innovation, organizational confidence must be developed through early introspection and clarity about the needs of the project. A team must explore the implementation path towards the strategic goal through the use of a tool such as the Innovation Value CanvasTM. They can then determine what must happen within the context of the organization in order to achieve it. Once they discover a path that preserves the value proposition embodied in the strategy they must acknowledge the particular challenges posed to their organization and clearly communicate these and other elements critical to the success of the value proposition. These critical elements outline the direction success must take and the consequent departure from “business as usual” necessary to achieving it.
Rather than charging ahead with the false confidence born of ignorance, leadership—armed with an understanding of these elements critical to achieving value—has a chance to evaluate the value proposition implied by their strategy and either gain the confidence to commit to achieving it or redirect resources to a more fruitful endeavor. Failing fast by evaluating what you know about your organizational challenges as well as your ultimate objectives is fairly inexpensive. If leadership was to support the project but not its consequences, either through ignorance or denial, the innovation will fail but only after an excessive waste of valuable resources and a huge hit to organizational confidence in future decisions.
The decision to move forward through this understanding and acceptance of what it takes to succeed empowers the whole organization. If leadership accepts and supports the necessary departures from the norm they are enabling everyone involved to act knowing that all stakeholders have their eyes wide open to the requirements of the path to success and that they are all aligned on the critical elements that must be achieved to walk that path. Unlike business as usual, innovation requires introspection and iteration to obtain the clarity and confidence to mobilize an organization.