Renee Prejean-Motanky

THE IMPORTANCE OF BUSINESS INNOVATION …especially during difficult times

In Business Development, Business Strategies on July 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm
Image by vaXzine via Flickr

Far too few businesses have creative, right-brain types in leadership positions. This leaves innovation vulnerable to unwise cost cutting during difficult economic times. Decisions to slash versus retain projects are made by analytical, left-brain leadership who really are not suited for assessing innovations “outside of the box.”

 The fashion industry sets a great example worth emulating:

Every season, successful fashion companies must reinvent their product lines—and thus their brands—or face certain death. They manage this constant challenge by creating unusual partnerships at the top that consist of an imaginative, right-brain creative director and a commercially minded, left-brain brand CEO. ( called “both-brain” teams by Darrell K. Rigby, author of Winning in Turbulance.)*

  • Its businesses are run by pairs of powerful executives with complementary–creative and analytic–styles.
  • Its businesses are structured  to support left-brain-right-brain partnerships. Recruiters for the fashion industry seek to hire a mix of cognitive styles at all levels.  
  • In the fashion industry Innovation is a way of business life, not a marginal activity.

Highly successful both-brain pairs have been found elsewhere: Apple CEO Steve Jobs and COO, Tim Cook, are one such extremely well-known alliance. 

How it works:

Traditional, left-brain-dominant business leaders typically can’t tell the difference between good and bad innovations. Nor do they appreciate the skills needed to build and sustain a culture of creativity and constant reinvention. A leadership duo that unites right-brain creative skills and left-brain management skills offers the best way of ingraining innovation in a business, making it valued in all economic climates. 

But there’s more to the formula than throwing two people together. What makes for a superlative “both-brain” team? In many ways such a partnership is “truly like a marriage,” says Gucci Group CEO, Robert Polet. “It has ups and downs, and you have disagreements, [but] with a common purpose and within a common framework.”

Rigby studied a number of creative-commercial partnerships, both successful and unsuccessful, and identified seven characteristics that were common to success:

  1. Awareness of strengths and weaknesses. Partners realistically assess what they do well and where they need help. They often joke openly about their own shortcomings to help others see the value of partnership.
  2. Complementary cognitive skills. Partners seek those who balance their own working styles and decision-making approaches. They learn to draw on each other’s capabilities to the proper degree and at the right times.
  3. Trust. Partners trust each other and are willing to put each other’s interests ahead of their own.
  4. Raw intelligence. Partners bring insightful observations and good judgment to the team’s decisions.
  5. Relevant knowledge. Partners bring experience that applies directly to the challenges they face.
  6. Strong communication channels. Partners speak to each other frequently and directly. They often work in the same or adjacent spaces.
  7. Motivation. Partners are highly committed to the success of the business and to each other.

*Source:  Innovation in turbulent times Harvard Business Review 06/01/09 by Darrell K. Rigby, Kara Gruver, and James Allen

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