How do leaders protect those who “diverge from the norm”?

A few months ago, Skillsoft, leader in corporate learning edited a Survey report on “Actionable Leadership in the Creative Age”. In it, I read (and loved) the following intriguing excerpt:

 “At the heart of this is for leaders to not only be creative in their own thinking but to foster a culture of innovation through supporting those who diverge from the norm in their thinking, build relationships, tolerate risk, persist in their ideas, take action, and strive for deeper meaning in everything they do.”

Fostering a “culture of innovation,” however, is likely to require more than nice speeches about how “the world is changing more than ever.” We can’t expect innovation if we reward sameness. We can’t expect risk taking if we severely punish mistakes. We can’t foster a culture of change while desperately trying to control and protect the status quo.

So, here are a couple of specific questions for a discussion in a management team on Innovation in your organization:

  1. What are best practices – actual processes or initiatives that you have either observed or launched – that truly PROMOTE INNOVATION?
  2. Can you share examples of solutions that “support those who diverge from the norm”?

I’m particularly intrigued by question 2, as I feel that it lies in “the heart” of innovation.

Please forgive me for a tad of skepticism, but I wonder whether top management and HR do a good job “protecting norm dissenters.” On the contrary, we seem to be professionally trained to protect the norm AGAINST dissenters.

Do you agree? Disagree?

Tell us why and what you think should be done about it.