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Leading Innovation in a Human-Centric World by Karina Jensen

ISPIM member Karina Jensen is Founder and Managing Director of Global Minds Network


The context for innovation is rapidly evolving in an increasingly international, multicultural, and digitally connected environment. Leaders and teams are facing changing contexts, rapidly evolving technologies, and customer needs across cultures and geographies. Global collaboration, local market intelligence and cultural understanding matter more than ever. In creating and launching new products, services, or programs, what does it take to lead innovation around the globe?

The new ISO Innovation Management standard has been developed from a global perspective with the participation of 50 countries and leading international organizations in order to ensure a common vision. Moving forward, it will be important to transition the focus from ‘What' to address in innovation to 'How' leaders and managers will orchestrate a global innovation process, from concept to market. In moving from a technology-driven to a human-driven focus, Leadership for a changing innovation landscape is increasingly needed across industries and geographies.

Mastering the New Leadership Skills

In order to effectively launch and sustain new initiatives, leadership skills and behaviors will need to support the key drivers of global innovation performance. Consider the Multicultural Innovation Framework (Jensen 2017) which incorporates three drivers: Vision, Dialogue, and Space. Vision speaks to the role of global leadership and strategic co-creation, Dialogue addresses the role of knowledge-sharing and cross-cultural learning in optimizing collective intelligence, and Space ensures an open and safe environment for shaping a global innovation culture and team climate.

Navigating a global, multicultural, and digitally connected environment will require effective facilitation and orchestration skills. Through my research with 200+ leaders in 36 multinational organizations, I have found that specific skills are required for leading concept creation, strategic planning, validation, and execution of new concepts throughout the global innovation cycle. In order to review your leadership development needs, consider the following question: How could you improve leadership competencies for specific phases in the global innovation project cycle?

The challenges and questions faced by the global transformation journey provide unique opportunities for facilitating multicultural innovation and collaboration. Leaders and their organizations have opportunities to share ideas, knowledge and talent that can benefit countries, regions and the entire planet. Rather than focus on universal concepts and risk poor cultural fit, organizations have an opportunity to solve critical challenges and deliver solutions with increased value for global and local markets. Whether you are working with global, local, open, reverse, or social innovation, your projects will always demand cross-functional and cross-cultural collaboration.

Innovation Leaders as Knowledge Facilitators

A dynamic and evolving business environment requires responsive and agile teams to ensure organizational performance and international market success. Leaders will need to serve as knowledge facilitators and innovation orchestrators across cultures and functions. Leaders have the opportunity to listen, recognize, and respond to knowledge shared by teams worldwide by facilitating an inclusive dialogue. This will empower local market voices who contribute new knowledge and ideas for creating valuable global solutions. Consider these key questions when assessing innovation leadership competencies and capabilities:

Ideation – How are leaders facilitating inclusion and dialogue to encourage creative thinking and new ideas from cross-functional and cross-cultural teams?

Strategic Planning – How are leaders and teams engaging in shared strategy-making through knowledge-sharing and cross-cultural learning?

Validation – How are leaders and teams responding to cultural differences and local customer preferences when developing and testing new concepts?

Execution – How can leaders and teams move ideas from concept to market through live and digital collaboration across geographies?

Leaders and organizations have the opportunity to transform challenges to new solutions that optimize the collective wisdom of a global network. Listening and learning from diverse perspectives nurtures an open and creative mind. Sharing knowledge and practices across functions and cultures enables and engages the organizational eco system. This opens the door to new solutions that deliver value and respond to the needs of developing, emerging, and mature economies. It’s time to harness the collective intelligence and creativity of our organizations through leadership that is capable of facilitating and orchestrating innovation around the world.


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