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Many descriptions of innovation refer to obvious, famous entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs as visionary leaders. However, there are many visionary leaders performing this function within smaller organizations on a regular basis. The pattern of the process is the same for all visionaries.

The next example illustrates visionary leadership within a mediumsized information technology consulting company and creation of a regenerative innovation management process to sustain this business even as the world changed around it after 9/11. This leader’s role was to plan how to streamline a $27 million company that had been formed through a roll-up of 20 disparate IT consulting companies. The Service offerings in the companies included managed network services, web development, custom application development and distance learning. She observed the companies slow response to proposals, and inconsistent delivery ability after winning a proposal. She imagined a different situation, where any sales person or any area service manager would have at their fingertips the credentials and skills of anyone else in the company. Any sales person in any region would have access and knowledge of detailed information about other regions’ “wins,” and any technical person could easily find a more informed expert to collaborate with to sell a deal. She also imagined a situation where all of the needed resources would be easy and quick to locate to respond to customer requirements. Not just the letters showing the technical people’s ability to fit into the box of a particular job role, but knowledge of their ability to think cognitively and deliver solutions. She designed a system comprised of people, processes, and information systems to support this consulting company’s continuous ability to respond to changing technology and customer demands, and define or refine service offerings to continue to be successful. This system was a complex system.

In order to achieve this, she elicited ideas from the area service managers and sales people to learn what they needed, and found ways to provide what the teams needed to participate in the system. As a result, many of the tools that the company operated changed: Job Descriptions, Compensation Plans, and Support Systems were all modified to encourage revenue renewal and collaborative selling. A regenerative process was created to continually gather feedback from the regions and incorporate it into the shape of the overall company service offerings on an ongoing basis. The success of the overall process depended on participation of all of the regional leaders, their consultants, and their sales people. It was refreshing to many staff, to be able for the first time to have resources available to create innovative regional business plans and consistently be able to deliver.


There are several factors to success in this form of innovation management.

  • 1. The leader has to have the capability to recognize or imagine actionable ideas
  • 2. The leader needs to be able to motivate the organization to deliver on the idea.
  • 3. The leader needs to create an innovation management process in order to keep the actionable ideas and new products/services flowing out.
  • 4. The organization needs the resources to be able to deliver on the idea such as funding, human capital, and physical assets.
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