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Leading Innovation and Change

April 16 2018 - by Alaine Murray, CLP's Communications Officer

Since its establishment as an Executive Agency in 2007, the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) in Jamaica has become renowned for excellent service delivery. This has ranged from providing next-day expedited service, introducing facial recognition software, and developing online immigration and landing forms. Most recently, the Agency obtained approval to develop an online passport application facility – the first of its in kind in the Caribbean region. Central to the transformation of this “bright spot” in the Caribbean public service, are the concepts of creativity, innovation and change.

The pervasive narrative in both academic and professional discourse is that innovation is a matter of life and death for successful organisations. Failure to embrace, manage, and lead this may result in losing ground or being overtaken by the competition. Since all innovations lead to change, successful leaders in this era are those who think creatively and innovatively, to drive change.

Strategically, one must consider the contextual factors which stimulate or impede creativity and innovation. One may argue that an enabling environment for creativity and innovation should have a high tolerance for taking risks, and be (among other things) dynamic and relatively loose in structure. Additionally, there should be a healthy degree of freedom, debate, trust and systems of recognition and rewards.

At a glance, one may presume that such enabling factors are not hallmarks of the formal, hierarchical, bureaucratic, and conservative structure of the public sector. It is necessary, therefore, to consider other impactful factors - internal to the individual (e.g. values and attitudes), and external to the organisation (e.g. the continuously evolving, global, technological landscape). Indeed, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and organisations should adopt an approach most suited for their context. Leadership is also required to create direction and motivate others to commit to implementing innovation and change interventions.

Leading innovation and change is quite complex. It involves trial and error, challenging the status quo, building effective routines, and learning from other organisations. Research also suggests that leaders of innovation and change are passionate, courageous, and tolerant of risks and ambiguity. In addition to possessing in-depth customer insight, and leading-edge technical awareness, they also possess a healthy combination of creativity and discipline in building and maintaining innovative teams.

Significantly, the competencies required to lead innovation and change do not reside with only a few extraordinary individuals within an organisation. Rather, anyone, at any level within an organisation can hone their creative, innovative, change management and leadership skills. Needless to say, different contexts and interventions will require a different demonstration of competencies. This, therefore, requires the leader to demonstrate good emotional intelligence to lead innovation and drive change.

Based on your experience, what other competencies are required to lead innovation and change?

What strategies have worked for you to overcome contextual factors, which impede creativity and innovation?

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