Coro’s Blog: On Purpose

Social innovation benefits one, all

Published on May 15, 2015

Part 4 of 7 in the series: Sustainability Leadership Competencies

This is the fourth article in a series on Sustainability Leadership Competencies. So far, I have provided an overview of sustainability talent management, and have delved into the importance of systems thinkingand external collaboration. In this article, I provide rationale for including “social innovation” in your organization’s existing leadership competency models.

Organizations that will survive in today’s economy are innovators: just to remain in the same place, they have to accelerate innovation in the firm. Companies that will thrive in today’s economy are those that embrace social innovation with its focus on innovating business for both financial and social success.

What is it?

Social innovation involves creating, developing and implementing new practices where the benefits are enjoyed not just by the company but by society at large. It is the ability to generate and enable business model, organization and system level innovation to advance both business and social value. It shifts the collective focus from reactive problem-solving to co-creating a better society with stakeholders. That’s what distinguishes it from conventional innovation.

Leaders with social innovation skills draw upon values and customer and stakeholder engagement strategies to build and fulfill positive visions for the future.

Why does it matter?

How organizations react to the sustainability mega-forces will affect their ability to succeed and prosper in the future. All sectors, value chains, business models and functions will need to be re-engineered to enable simultaneous business and societal progress. Skills in generating innovation and guiding implementation are needed to realize both organizational and large-scale change. Leaders with the ability to turn complexity into an opportunity will enjoy a future competitive advantage.

What competencies does it build upon?

In my report I provide a set of illustrative behaviours that demonstrate proficiency at either the foundational or the advanced level of social innovation. Each competency builds upon and enhances existing leadership competencies and is designed to complement current organizational development processes, rather than replace them.

When thinking about social innovation, here’s a summary:

  • Builds upon these conventional competencies: Change Leadership, Creativity and Innovation
  • New foundational competencies: Incremental insights and solutions
  • New advanced competencies: Organization and system change

Up Next

Next in this series we’ll explore Sustainability Literacy as a key leadership competency.

Ready to dive deeper now?

If you’re keen to know more about social innovation and the other characteristics of a leader sustainability competency model, you can read the report here.

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