Today’s winning innovation leaders know the first step towards leveraging disruption is to recognize the world as it really is and not as they’d like it to be.
They know that wishful thinking will put them on the road to disaster.

I once had the tremendous honor of serving as the keynote speaker for the launch of a very important pain management pharmaceutical produced by a great company, Flexion. Dr. Mike Clayman, the CEO of Flexion, is a superstar leader, and I had the great opportunity to interview him to understand how he created such a great technology as well as an incredibly engaged and productive team.

Mike shared with me the insight that successful organizations seek truth, not just success.

I thought this was interesting. He explained that as people we achieve success only after we’ve been honest and truthful about what’s required to drive enterprise excellence. As a philosophical starting point, merely chasing “success” is misguided. If we aim only for success, we’ll never get it. Success is the end result of staying focused on the truth.

This applies to how we manage our teams. We need to be honest about what we’re asking them to do and then we need to address the realities of the challenges head-on. Disruption requires that we recognize what’s really happening and respond decisively, without thinking, “We can’t do that!”

Innovation leaders know that to stay ahead of the competition, you need to “keep it real” and know exactly where you stand in the race.

Three Key Action Steps to Maintaining Innovation Leadership

1. Identify and evaluate the sources of external disruption in your market—the emerging forces that threaten your organization’s viability. What might threaten your supply chain? What new competitors are rising? Are your customers coming back again and again, or are they defecting to competitors?

2. Identify and evaluate the sources of internal disruption that are brewing right now within your organization. Are your employees fully engaged? Is your new product development on track? Are you personally open and receptive to new ideas?

3. Make sure you’re getting real information, not suppositions or platitudes. Do you seek critical viewpoints, or subtly discourage them? Do you welcome disruption as a catalyst for improvement, or does it irritate you? Do you promote data that represents stark reality, or data that makes you look good to your stakeholders?