Linda Hill – Economist
I have a confession to make. I’m a business professor whose ambition has been to help people learn to lead. But recently, I’ve discovered that what many of us think of as great leadership does not work when it comes to leading innovation.
I’m an ethnographer. I use the methods of anthropology to understand the questions in which I’m interested. So along with three co-conspirators, I spent nearly a decade observing up close and personal exceptional leaders of innovation. We studied 16 men and women, located in seven countries across the globe, working in 12 different industries. In total, we spent hundreds of hours on the ground, on-site, watching these leaders in action. We ended up with pages and pages and pages of field notes that we analyzed and looked for patterns in what our leaders did. The bottom line? If we want to build organizations that can innovate time and again, we must unlearn our conventional notions of leadership.
Leading innovation is not about creating a vision, and inspiring others to execute it. But what do we mean by innovation? An innovation is anything that is both new and useful. It can be a product or service. It can be a process or a way of organizing. It can be incremental, or it can be breakthrough. We have a pretty inclusive definition.
How many of you recognize this man? Put your hands up. Keep your hands up, if you know who this is. How about these familiar faces? From your show of hands, it looks like many of you have seen a Pixar movie, but very few of you recognized Ed Catmull, the founder and CEO of Pixar — one of the companies I had the privilege of studying.