Does Innovation Begin and End with Leadership?

After reading a recent article on Boeing’s Innovative Approach to Leadership, I have to ask. Boeing found that engaging the workforce in innovation requires positional leaders and managers to abandon the command-and-control style of management that is so prevalent in business today. Instead, leaders must employ a more participative approach and solicit collective ideas from the workforce rather than imposing initiatives on them.

Senior managers in Boeing’s C-17 program took a bold first step toward establishing this new leadership paradigm by gathering all 10,000 C-17 employees in a hangar and communicating their philosophy directly to the front-line employees and the epic event just changed everything inside the Boeing C-17 culture. As a result, the program went from the brink of cancellation in the early 1990s to he model acquisition program for the U.S. Air Force,” earning the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in 1998. The innovation captured by the program saved over 90M in less than a decade.

While I believe that innovative thinking begins and ends with the individual, if the business doesn’t support the individual and harness the innovation she produces, then it doesn’t go anywhere. And if the leaders don’t see the value in the innovation, it won’t get harnessed. Which suggests that innovation begins, or ends, with leadership. What do you think?

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