Assistant Professor of Strategy
JOURNAL ARTICLE | Harvard Business Review | 92 | December 2014
Leading Your Team into the Unknown
Like any corporate operation, innovation requires effective leadership. But it’s a different kind than the core business calls for, involving skills and tactics many executives have yet to master.The authors’ study of companies that consistently launch novel offerings and enter new markets reveals the process that successful innovation leaders follow--one that draws on risk-reduction ideas developed over the past 50 years.This process, which the authors call the innovator’s method, is at heart a journey of discovery, and so the role of the person leading it is to set other people down a path and demonstrate a willingness to push boundaries and embrace uncertainty.Indeed, the innovation leader is not the chief decision maker but the chief experimenter, helping to identify critical assumptions on which new offerings are based, fashion experiments to test those assumptions with customers, and interpret the results. Preparing the organization to accept novel ideas is a crucial part of the job.Innovation leaders can do that by emphasizing that the process is aimed at minimizing the risks of innovation in the same way that other organizational processes minimize core operational risks.Finally, the innovation leader must give team members not just time (uninterrupted blocks are best) but also the resources and tools to explore the unknown. INSETS: A Comprehensive Approach to Innovation;Intuit¿s Rules for Ethical Experimentation.