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Coaching for innovation

Coaching the leader to promote innovation

The need for innovation

Over the last 15 years we have seen businesses focus on profit optimization.    Michael Porter highlights the problem - ‘Performing similar activities better than rivals may be essential to superior performance, but tends to drive companies to competitive convergence rather than uniqueness’. Such is the challenge in many businesses where they offer similar services to their competitors and often have to compete on price to maintain/attract their clients or customers.

However, recent data indicates “84% of the world’s CEOs consider innovation crucial for their business strategy.” (Global Consultancy Client) Innovation can be achieved through:

  • radical thinking to bring about completely new ideas, new markets, new business models
  • by introducing new products or services, or
  • by improving the quality of the service/product that is offered i.e. doing things better

Assessing the leader’s ability to bring innovation to their work

If innovation is so important, how can we ensure the leader actually promotes innovation effectively, especially if their natural inclination may be to be risk adverse?  As executive coaches we have been using recent research by OPP who have mapped the Myers Brigg Type Inventory to an innovation process and model.  The research identifies the process needed to apply innovation successfully, and then maps the leaders preferred style to the model.  This allows the coach to see how the leader responds to innovation and how they can enhance this with the teams they manage.  Once the leader has a raised awareness of their preferred style, it is easier for them to see what steps they can take to complete the whole innovation process, and how other team members can complement their preferred approach.

Key questions when coaching for innovation

  • Where and when is the leader able to take risk/bring innovation to their work?
  • How might they help or hinder the innovation process?
  • Is there a clear process from concept to launch i.e. an idea funnel?
  • Is there clear ownership and accountability for the development and implementation of ideas?
  • ROI – does the new idea really add value?  Is it tested?


Innovation is crucial to the future for business growth so the executive coach needs to be able to assess the skills/attitude of the leader to promote and sustain innovation in the businesses they lead.  They need to be able to ask key questions regarding successful innovation and help the leader work with others to ensure innovation is sustained.