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Innovative leadership: Manage lightly, produce precisely

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The secret to new product innovation? Keep the boss away.

A study by The Nielsen Company looked at 30 large consumer packaged-goods companies, comparing how involved senior management was with the new-product development process.

Those whose managers kept a light touch generated 80% more new-product revenue, compared to those with heavy management involvement.

“While we don’t dispute senior management’s strengths and good intentions, they are often too quick to get involved in the creative process, especially when things are not going well, and their mere presence can stifle free-thinking and ... doom the new product development process to failure,” says Tom Agan of Nielsen.

Managing the product-development process itself, however, does prove profitable. Companies with rigid stage gates average 130% more new-product revenue than those with loose processes.

Nike shoe-designer-turned-CEO Mark Parker calls the balance “amplifying and editing”—being careful not to shut down innovators, while short-listing the products that will make the biggest difference. 

— Adapted from “To boost innovation just keep the boss away!” Paul Sloane, BQF Innovation, and “How Nike’s CEO Shook Up the Shoe Industry,” Ellen McGirt, Fast Company.

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