Role of the Manager in Fostering Innovation

Recently I was invited to address a group associated with a local university. I was asked to speak on what I've learned about the manager's role in fostering innovation. Here are the talking notes I used.

1. Pick what to manage
manage the work, not the people -- focus on the artifact, not the timecard or the appearance of being busy

2. Remain mindful of essential human behavior
circadian rhythms, personalities, learning styles, bursty vs. steady state output, hygiene

3. Keep ideas in motion: foster dialog
crowd people together and layout the space and normative expectations for quiet time too

4. "Don't let yesterday use up too much of today" (Will Rogers)
the prudent trumps the practical, stay aware of technical debt, be careful of what you mortgage, cut losses quickly

5. Decision making is performance art
frame decisions as such, be decisive, be public, be on the record

6. Relentlessly remind everyone that benefits sell, features don't
recognize that innovation != invention; don't mistake activity for progress
Google's #1 of ten things: "focus on the user and all else will follow"

7. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing (Covey, Barksdale)
focus!!! order can arise without anyone giving orders; continually be asking questions, in public earshot as well as privately; frame discourse to push at the edges

8. See to every employee's welfare
intellectual work is not factory work, minds are what matter and moods shape mental clarity -- seek to ensure everyone is in harmonious spirits; squelch rudeness; show backbone

9. Mission is value creation not cost containment
see the organization as system of roles as well as a system of persons; be savvy about what metrics mean, ensure they support the mission, not constrain it

10. Leadership
mission cheerleader; herding dog, not guard dog; maintain domain competence; keep eyes sharp for "doing the right thing"; let others have "the last word"; kaizen; stand back