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Innovation & Leadership

By Jim Mikula, President/CEO

Eight weeks in, and I’m ready to leap into the future. We will hold our annual strategic planning meeting where I will share what I have learned as part of my First 90 Days plan along with some recommendations. One theme that emerged in my research comes in the form of a question: how can the Fredericksburg Chamber Commerce become a leader of innovation for our business community?

Fortunately for me, I have an in-house expert on innovation, my wife is a recognized expert and author on the process of innovation and the kind of company culture that fosters innovation. We have quite a library on innovation, and one article stood out as I started to gather my thinking and planning for the strategic planning meeting. Katherine Graham-Leviss wrote an article for Harvard Business Review a few years ago titled “The 5 Skills That Innovative Leaders Have in Common.” The author shares that “innovation is critical to driving growth, new products/services and new methods of delivering value to customers.”

Her company, XBInsight conducted a survey of nearly 5,000 leaders to ascertain what innovative leaders do better than non-innovative leaders. The innovative leaders scored higher in managing risk, demonstrating curiosity, leading courageously, seizing opportunities, and maintaining a strategic business perspective. One practice on which non-innovative leaders scored higher was maintaining order and accuracy. Perhaps this is a positive indicator for me, as I do like some disorder and even a little chaos—sometimes on purpose, to open up new thinking that might have stayed hidden.

The board is also preparing for the meeting by doing a SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis of the Fredericksburg economy and the Chamber. I have found that a SWOT analysis supports curiosity and innovation for a team seeking to set strategies. The board also has a reading assignment: “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” by Jim Collins, the author of the best seller “Good to Great.”

We will be exploring our mission and key strategies for the next three years. At the core of the strategic dialogue will be value and innovation. We all agree that we must make the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce more valuable to members and community at large.

The key question we will be addressing is how the Chamber will provide value to its members in the domains of growing revenue, achieving operational excellence, providing excellent customer service, financial success and employee engagement excellence. At the planning meeting, the board and staff will work together on a structure to design and implement a plan to achieve this. We will continue to share our plans and results with our members and our community.

One last piece of the article by Ms. Graham-Leviss:

People “who are most likely to lead innovation are driving, high impact individuals, who aren’t afraid to be assertive, independent, and above all, curious.”

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