Close

Sign up to get the latest news and stories on the future of work.

Subscribe Search

Search form

This is part of our monthly TED Talk Tuesday series, spotlighting can't-miss TED Talks and their key takeaways. You can learn more about our partnership with TED here.

Linda Hill, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and co-author of Collective Genius, studies visionaries—but not the ones you'd expect. Though there's no denying the contributions of brilliant minds like Albert Einstein, Hill is more interested in less recognizable, albeit equally influential, leaders that "set the stage" for innovation rather than "perform on it."

Her TED Talk urges organizational leaders to let go of conventional notions of leadership and embrace an approach that unleashes collective creativity and talent. According to Hill, being an effective leader isn't about finding one way to solve a problem. Leadership requires giving employees the opportunity to challenge the status quo and collaboratively pave a new path forward.

Watch the video below and read on for three key takeaways from her talk.

"Leading innovation is about creating the space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving."

Pointing to some of the groundbreaking work happening at companies like Pixar and Google, Hill explains that innovation happens in environments where collaboration is inspired and encouraged. At Pixar, for example, there's no straight line from film conception to finished product, and there's no such thing as an insignificant contribution. Just like the director, an animator can change the course of a character's development with a single sketch. You never know where a great idea will originate—that's why empowering employees, regardless of their specific roles, is key not only to their success, but also to the success of the organization.

"Innovative organizations are communities that have three capabilities: creative abrasion, creative resolution and creative agility."

The innovation process starts with creative abrasion, a series of heated but constructive arguments that lead to the creation of potential solutions to problems. Then comes creative agility, which involves refining those ideas. Finally, there's creative resolution, the decision-making phase during which opposing ideas are reconfigured in new combinations. The key is not compromising some ideas in favor of others, but pushing all ideas into different territories for collective problem solving. There's a valuable HR lesson here—conflict can be healthy, as long as it's channeled towards improvement.

"If we want to invent a better future, then we need to reimagine our task."

The onus is on leaders to develop a nurturing environment where employees can thrive, and it's up to HR executives and managers to help them do it. Encourage leaders to step away from traditional hierarchies in favor of more cyclical, collaborative workflows, and ensure that employees have the confidence they need to step up to new challenges.

Photo: TED