How to Determine the Time for Innovation

by Karen Delk, MSc., PCC

For many leaders in the corporate world, identifying the strategy and determining the resources needed for successful implementation is a process. Encountering challenges and setbacks are expected, but there are times when continuing the strategy, even with modifications, is not enough. There is a need for change and innovation. A time to start something new. The purpose for innovation must be defined.

Define the Need for Innovation

It is important to define the need for innovation due to a challenge, lack of process, lack of progress, or advancement. These are reasons to explore trying something new. As a leader, it is important to identify and clearly communicate the key challenge and how a new approach addresses the concern. Informing the team as well as the broader organization is a must. Influence is required by the leader to request resources and significant investments to bring the desired outcomes. Leaders may highlight required changes in assumptions, behaviors, processes, and procedures.

Understanding the Innovation Work by Leader

The work of innovation will vary by level and depends on your role. Leaders of teams and managers are comprised of managing the resources and leading group innovation processes, and/or facilitating cooperation between groups working toward organizational systems for innovation. While leaders of functions help to develop innovation strategies and manage new products, processes, and services, they are often initiating change to accommodate emerging innovations.

Senior leaders set the strategy for innovation and shape the culture for the new and different ideas. Leaders will cast the vision and find ways to appeal to the many layers of management to model the behavior and communicate the need for innovation.

How to Develop Innovative Thinking

Since problems come in all shapes and sizes, there is a need to try different methods before the right solution can be found. Explore using the “What if?” technique as a quick and creative thinking tool. Ideas can flow without editorials.Using the chart below, ask the What if and fill in using these words or others to start the thinking process.

Larger smaller thicker thinner
longer shorter more less
sustaining disposable durable not secure
complexities simplify expand contract


Having effective tools are critical to driving innovation and disruptive thinking in an organization. Use of prototyping, brainstorming, mind-mapping, and direct learning for senior leaders are just a few of the techniques.

Having skills is another key component of innovation. Having the curiosity, knowledge, capacity, and practice to examine existing processes to be able to create a new framework is critical. To get started consider exploring the fourW’s, what is, what if, what matters and what works. Having the mindset to experiment with new and different behaviors using the tools is what will distinguish those leaders who demonstrate and enable creative thinking and innovation. The ability to navigate ambiguity and operate in between the old and new polarity, helps leaders to make innovation possible.

Elevate your Leadership Potential

To learn more about innovation and executive coaching, reach out to Karen for a consultation.