With no fanfare of any sort, the venerable Harvard Business Review (HBR) has published the first in a series of brain teasers, word puzzles designed to look like articles, containing syntactical dead ends, grammatical errors, and logical non sequiturs. The purpose of the series is to make us more astute readers — or to complete the dissolution of our brains to oatmeal. It’s too early to tell. But feel free to make up your own mind after you try to make sense of this excerpt from a brain-twister entitled, “The Five Skills That Innovative Leaders Have in Common“:

Innovation is critical in a knowledge economy … And yet, despite its importance, innovation is a difficult quality to cultivate.

While the importance of innovation remains dubious and unproven, I humbly submit that innovation — like disruption — would be far less difficult to cultivate if it could be defined. In small companies, it’s presumed to be a change in process, procedure, or perception. In large corporations, it’s perceived to be any deviation, however minuscule, from the way things have been done since the discovery of the Boss’s authority. But in neither small nor larger organizations is there a consistent definition of the term, to say nothing of a consistent (or coherent) application.

Nevertheless, the lack of definition notwithstanding:

Innovative leaders scored 25% higher than their non-innovative counterparts on managing risk.

It’s hard to imagine anything more reassuring, isn’t it? I, for one, was out like a light after reading that; although, I couldn’t be sure if I’d fallen into a restful sleep or was stupefied into a coma. As long as I got the rest, I guess I shouldn’t quibble. And I’ll try not to let the fact that HBR seemed no more inclined to define managing risk than it was to define innovative get under my skin.

At any rate, here are five more skills innovative leaders have in common:

  1. They never describe themselves as innovative.
  2. They never say or write innovation.
  3. They never permit innovation to be said or written in their organizations.
  4. They don’t mistake every inconsequential alteration to anything for innovation, nor do they allow it to be characterized as such.
  5. They don’t institute innovation as a corporate mandate, mission statement, or training program, nor do they mistake it for a philosophy.

According to a recent study by the Chautauqua Center for Cognitive Capacity (CCCC), leaders who refuse to use innovation — and their employees — are 100% less likely to have their brains turn to oatmeal.

Don’t miss HBR’s next brain teaser, “The Five Skills That Disruptive Leaders Have in Common”.

Image by geralt, courtesy of pixabay.com.