By James Conrad
Innovation is the driving force behind the success of any startup. However, because innovation means to break away from the pack, rebel against the status quo and follow the path that diverges to the road less traveled, does the idea of innovation fly in the face of management rules? In other words, is it possible to manage innovation?
Although founding and running a startup is an art, management is a science. The challenge that comes with managing innovation is that people with innovative minds are restless and don’t take well to being stifled in any way. In fact, many visionaries will scorn and revile authority figures who believe that change of any sort is subversive, run their operation with a hands-off attitude, turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to any new ideas, and reap all the benefits despite taking none of the risks.
On the other hand, for all their restless energy and relentless vision, truly innovative entrepreneurs are surprisingly modest, preferring to let their talents and their accomplishments do the talking for them. As such, they treat all intelligent people they encounter as equals, and have no problems communicating their ideas to anyone, for they believe that their role is not only to blaze new trails, but also to inspire others to follow their dreams with them. Although they strive for autonomy, they know that they cannot realize their dream alone, so another ambition they seek to achieve is to become the director of a successful team in which they foster co-leaderships.
One particular example of a successful co-leadership took place in 1949 when Soichiro Honda, an inventive mechanic who led a struggling motorcycle company partnered with Takeo Fujisawa, a businessman from Tokyo. “If you want your company to become successful, you must look far into the future,” said Fujisawa. The rest is history. Ten years later, the Honda Motor Corporation would become the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, and in time would become a major force to be reckoned with in the automotive industry.