Top Ten Traits of Leading Innovation

Top Ten Traits of Leading Innovation
When one of the corporate America’s venerated boys Gorge Fischer took the helm of Kodak, many thought that Kodak would reinvent itself and offer disruptive product lines capitalizing best of what transformational technologies have to offer. After all, Fischer has the credential to support such aspiration: he has been instrumental to Motorola’s success in the 1990s. Yet, despite the best effort, digital strategy did not gain traction at Kodak and Fischer found himself knee deep in organizational muddy labyrinth (Henry & Goh, 2009). Unlike Motorola where he guided the company to record earnings, Eastman Kodak had an entrenched culture one that common with aged corporations: a strong rigidity to change. This organizational cognition (a behavior driven norm) rendered even the most promising ideates of disruptive technology into futile efforts. According to Henry & Goh (2009), the most important observation of Kodak’s failure is that management did not take initiative to marshal organization’s capability recognizing threats and opportunities. Kodak had both money and the means to advance in the digital photography marketplace but the organization wanted to do this on its own way. In addition, the organization viewed digital photography as a threat to the traditional business model.
It is a common phenomenon among many aged corporations: they fail to foster innovation.
Let’s take Xerox for example; once Steve Job said, “Xerox could have own the computer industry and could be IBM of the nineties” (Forbes, 2012). But, it did not. Inventions and for that matter patents or R&D investments will not produce optimal result unless the organization foster “innovation”. Inventions and creativity are the basis for innovation but those are not innovation. Innovation is more than just creativity or inventions it includes application and implementation (Chowdhury, 2015). Going back to the case of Eastman Kodak, the organization had 1100 patents in digital imaging and processing, those of which are sold to Apple, Google and Facebook during bankruptcy proceedings (Forbes, 2012). However, such enormous number of patents did not come to Kodak’s rescue, nor did its fattish bank balance. What would have help Kodak instead is the transformational change towards “innovation”.

So, what is innovation and how can we foster this in an organization?

Innovation is studied in many disciplines and definitions can be varied depending upon whether innovation is viewed as object-based (kind of innovation) or subject based (actors who initiate and implement innovation). I will make it even simpler, innovation is intentionally creating or acquiring new ideas, introducing them, and applying them for a beneficial purpose (West & Farr, 1989, 1990; Janssen, 2000). It can be new product, services or process that produce business result and includes application and implementation. To foster innovation, organization must create environmental support system that includes culture, knowledge management, process, strategy, goal orientation and perceived fairness. Assuming these antecedents are present, the important aspect of innovation is human elements: behavioral competence. This where you bring the difference: as a leader and an employee. You shape your organization’s innovation landscape.

It begins with you for the transformation you like to see in the organization. Whether you are a C level executive or an employee, the behavioral framework presented here will do amazing things for you both in organizational settings and in your person life.

Top ten traits

In my latest publication in the East Asian Journal of Business Management (EAJBM), I presented a behavioral framework for organizational innovation. The context of innovation is broad and the body of knowledge lacks a comprehensive discussion around innovative workplace behavior (IWB) that advances innovation. Assumption here is that organizational support system is conducive of transformational behavioral change in the organization. I have discussed about the antecedents of “innovation” in my research paper that is scheduled to be published by February, 2015. If you are interested to learn further, please view it at later in the month. The Innovation Workplace Behavior (IWB) occurs in three phases: idea generation, dissemination and realization. Literatures are clear about this but what behaviors entail IWB is not discussed. This is where my research offers valuable insights. The following sets of behavioral dimensions are empirically investigated as the fundamental IWB attributes. So, if you are serious about transforming your organization to an innovative entity, foster these behavioral dimensions: you will find it very useful.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Be respectful to others’ feelings and understand that of your own and more importantly, manage your emotion positively. This awareness and practice will make you a better person both in business and personal life; especially when it comes to conflict management, you will find this behavioral attribute quite handy.

  • Empathy: It is about understanding of other person’s feelings from their own reference point or being at the shoes. Empathy is also referred to as empathetic listening or inclusive of it. Be a good listener; listen carefully to others viewpoints and be respectful to that. It cannot be that everything has to be your way: be mindful of it. In case of hot exchange, do not immediately respond; wait, let go of your emotion and respond with positive emotion. Practice this and you will be effective in conflict management.

  • Individual initiative: If you follow the behavior of entrepreneurs or may be one of the confident leaders you admire most, you will observe that they are not afraid to take charge and boldly go where no one has gone before. Develop your confidence, believe in you and make educated move. This behavior includes enthusiasm, making constructive suggestions and risk taking. If you are a leader, allow such behavior to foster in your organization and you will find things get done creatively.

  • Voice Behavior: This is an important behavior both for leaders and employees. If you are a leader, allow constructive dialogues, creative suggestions, opinions and encourage your employees to be open to their suggestions. Your followers or opposition may have good idea, hear it and listen with empathy. Be open to discussion and allow communication to flow. Many organizations that suffer from passive aggressive behavior do not foster voice behavior rendering their organization subject to one way communication. This is harmful and continued practice of one way communication will render your organization to age early.

  • Knowledge Sharing: Literature is clear about importance of knowledge sharing in innovation. Make this central to your behavioral augmentation. Create knowledge management system, bring transformational technology to help foster knowledge sharing. Also, allow your organization to tolerate informal hallway and coffee table conversations. This informal setting allows employees to exchange views, discuss ideas and promotes it through social interactions.

  • Positive Deviance: In the study of organizational scholarship, protagonists consider innovation is part of generative dynamics of positivity. Organizations that have been successful in fostering innovation are open to risk taking and allow their employees to positively challenge status quo. Do not allow your personal emotion to cloud the judgment. Smart of the smartest will behave differently than others, do not confined them by rules, procedures and bureaucratic hurdles, instead create positive atmosphere to exchange their views.

  •  Social Participation (Civic Virtue): Collaboration is important in knowledge sharing, expressing opinion and dissemination of ideas or seeking creative solutions. In a social setting, you need to be comfortable of exchanging views and work with others in a team environment to find creative solutions to problem or discuss better alternatives. Social participation is thus central to innovation. It is of utmost important though to be civilized and stay civilized in group environment and be part of organizational life.

  •  Employee Sustainability: If you are not careful, life will be harsh. So, enjoy, have positive attitude towards life. Being a knowledge worker, your work does not end when you step out of the office. With improve digital connectivity and seeking knowledge nirvana, you could easily get overwhelm. So, be fit both mentally and physically. In many of the innovative organization, employees are seen to be more aware of their well-being and that of others. If you are a leader, ensure your organizational environment supportive of this psychosomatic fitness.

  •  Helping Behavior: Depending on cultural origin, some consider helping others a nuisance while others consider it a blessing. Be sensitive to others’ needs and that of yours, be a little social to help out those need help. Being mentor is a good way to advance your leadership.

  •  Administrative Behavior: Last but not the least, learn to get things done. Execute and manage yourself including your tasks with attention to details.

While there may be many other behavioral dimensions exist in Innovative work Behavior, many have overlaps with those mentioned here. These behaviors are not industry specific and universally applicable to different types of organization in different industries. Practice this and keep me posted on your observation.


Chowdhury, D.D., 2015. Deviant Citizenship Behavior: A comprehensive framework towards behavioral excellence in organizations. East Asian Journal of Business and Management, Vol 5, Issue 1.

Forbes, 2012. The Lesson That Market Leaders Are Failing To Learn From Xerox PARC. Forbes.

Forbes, 2012a. How Kodak Failed. Forbes.

Henry, C.L. & Goh, M.J., 2009. Disruptive technology: How Kodak missed the digital photography revolution. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Volume 18 Issue 1, March, 2009.

Janssen, O. , 2000. Job demands, perceptions of effort – reward fairness and innovative work behavior. Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, 73, 287 – 302.

West, M. & Farr, J., 1989. Innovation at work: Psychological perspectives. Social Behaviour, 4, 15 – 30.

West, M. & Farr, J. (Eds.), 1990. Innovation and Creativity at Work: Psychological and Organizational Strategies. Chichester, UK: John Wiley.

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