Leaders need to remember that leading innovation is mostly an exercise in leading discretionary effort. There are some positions where innovation is the main part of the job. These positions are usually limited to R&D, tech or IT roles. For the rest of the organization, innovation is not an overt part of the job description.

If leaders want to tap into the rest of the organization for ideas and actions to innovate (and they absolutely should), they need to make sure that a culture of high engagement exists. Without engagement, people will do the MINIMUM necessary and by definition that precludes actions to innovate.

To put the odds in your favor, do this:

Do everything possible to ensure your leaders are engaging leaders. People don’t quit companies, they quit their supervisors. And the worst case is when they have mentally “quit” and still show up!

Make engagement personal. There are general policies organizations can create to work on engagement, but the most impactful will be at the individual level. Make sure leaders know (and are taking action on) the INDIVIDUAL priority people are placing on their own engagement factors. Some people care very much about workplace balance, others care more about the quality of leadership.

Empower people to make more decisions about the nature and quality of their work. People have opinions about what will work for them. They want their work to matter and they want to do it in an effective way. Let them! (And if people are not very empowered that also means that leaders and supervisors are working below their paygrade…so it is worth looking at for that reason too.)

Innovation can be improved with processes, tools, training, and support, but it is unlikely that significant  progress will be made if people only feel motivated enough to “mail it in.”