Five ways leaders can accelerate innovation in their organisation

The pandemic has forced organisations to press the reset button. However, leaders can act as catalysts in this resetting process in more ways than one.


Leaders are at the forefront of this change and tasked with giving direction to their organisations, to successfully emerge from this crisis unscathed. It starts with changing mindsets and building resilience. Organisationally, achieving or improving resilience includes building a more agile operating model; ensuring that the workforce has the right capability set; nurturing organisational relationships; sharing data in real time; displaying and promoting leadership that engenders trust, supports creativity and innovation.

So, how can leaders catalyse this big reset? What are the top imperatives for them? Let’s take a look.

Reimagine the new normal

Like it or not, remote working is here to stay. Information technology organisations in India have mandated their workforce to continue working from home till the year end. Some have even pushed the return date to March 2021. They have also started to hire and on-board new team members from a remote location, thanks to digital tools. Leaders need to make many such shifts if they wish to lead through rapid changes. But the first shift needs to happen within themselves. They need to reimagine the vision, their partnerships, resource optimisation and communication mode, as they lead through the challenge of change and innovation

Accelerate digitisation and automation for distributed workforce

Even before the remote working policies came into effect, organisations relied on digital collaboration tools and understood that potential digitisation had to lead them into the future. Today, organisations are pushing towards a more digitally-enabled distributed workforce that is well connected and equipped with the latest technology. If the organisation is on the cusp of digitisation, then the leaders become even more important. They need to actively accelerate digital transformation processes, right from the core of the company, that is, the talent pool, to the business processes. In case they are still pondering, now is the time to act and launch that digital tool which they were always planning to do in the first place. Afterall, leaders who are digitally strong, move fast, and act decisively will always be at the forefront of competitive advantage.

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Ensure collaboration, flexibility, inclusion and accountability

It is a well-known fact that the team will only be half as effective when it is half as inclusive. For a leader, the key to building a truly diverse culture in the organisation begins from the top management. Diversity improves innovation and employee engagement, and brings in new talent to contribute to the bottom line. Leaders should take a closer look at how their distributed workforce is progressing and whether the employees are engaged or not. They need to begin by focusing on them as real people and not as just employees working for them. They have to connect with them on a personal level, forge relationships and bonds while giving them the assurance that they, and the organisation, are always there to support them in these times. Giving them enough flexibility to handle their work and avoiding micro-management is a plus. Employees who have strong social connections at work can be more collaborative and can boost productivity levels.

Build team resilience and adaptability

Individually, resilience is born from positive attitudes and growth mindsets — providing workers with the tools they need (whether that’s technology or safety equipment), supporting productive relationships within and without work, providing them with a clear and meaningful mission, and giving them the freedom to perform, achieve and grow. Only those organisations will thrive, which are adaptable, agile and swiftly pivot to the changing demands of the consumer.

Encourage agility and innovation

If leaders truly want to see their teams respond with agility and innovate more frequently, then they need to focus on their outcomes rather than the time spent. Innovation can only be achieved when the teams working on a specific project have flexible roles, cross-functional knowledge, and relevant training. Leaders, who provide their teams with clear directions, instructions, a playbook, necessary resources, and the tools they require to build upon their ideas, will end up innovating.

(The author Kamal Dutta is managing director Skillsoft, India.)

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