How Creative Leaders Play the Long Game for Innovation
Peruvian conglomerate Intercorp has been working toward the same mission for more than 25 years: To help Peru become one of the best places in Latin America to raise a family. Operating across many industries, Intercorp employs more than 80,000 people over 20 companies to advance their purpose.
Chief Innovation Officer Hernán Carranza has been a part of Intercorp’s journey for 17 years. So he knows a thing or two about holding a long-term perspective as you work toward a big, bold vision. For him, Peru’s recent social, economic and healthcare challenges only underscore the importance of Intercorp’s work. Now is the time to build on their history of innovation to address the changing needs of Peruvians.
Hernán joined us on the Creative Confidence Podcast to share how innovation keeps a company moving toward realizing their purpose and ways creative leaders can act now to have long-term impact.
Innovating for the long haul
Intercorp has evolved over three stages of growth in the last 25 years: from financial services to modern retail to shared value—doing well while doing good, Hernán explains in reference to the last stage built around Michael Porter’s theory.
For the last decade IDEO and Intercorp have worked together to create shared value for the company and the people they serve through La Victoria Lab, an in-house firm focused on horizontal innovation across Intercorp’s portfolio of businesses. As the founder and director of La Victoria Lab, Hernán and his team are charged with helping Intercorp imagine the future through the lens of design.
One of the projects Hernán is most proud of is Innova Schools, a network of more than 60 schools with 50,000 students designed to meet the needs of the Peruvian middle class at an affordable price. Inspired by that work, the team looked to take a similar approach in healthcare, leading to the launch of Aviva, a telemedicine startup that improves community access to pharmacies. And recently, Intercorp created Peru Champs to empower underprivileged Peruvian kids by providing educational scholarships. While these organizations operate in different industries, they all contribute to Intercorp’s overall purpose of improving the lives of Peruvian families.
Hernán Carranza (far right) and his team at La Victoria Lab appear in a video in IDEO U’s Leading for Creativity course.
How creative leaders act now to have greater impact later
Hernán knows that he’ll have to wait—sometimes years—to see the full impact of Intercorp’s innovations. So how does he stay present and take action now while keeping a long-term perspective? Here are some of the creative leadership qualities he values to amplify his long-term impact.
“One of the top insights I’ve learned in my journey in innovation so far is that in order to innovate and change, you need to first change yourself,” Hernán reflects. Relationships come into play because that kind of change is difficult to do alone. Trusted advisors can give you a fresh perspective and encouragement. Hernán’s wife, boss and teammates fill his circle of “complicidad” relationships—people he connects with mentally and emotionally. He says to seek out people who can give advice in a constructive way and address the difficult things you need to hear. Look for partnerships where you each are able to put the other person’s success ahead of your convenience.
Listen with humility
The second part to nurturing rich relationships is practicing deep listening to what those people have to share with you. Hernán asks for blind spots more than feedback because feedback tends to be things he already knows. “We should be looking for things that we don't want to or don't enjoy listening to,” he says. “That’s when you're going to become a better version of yourself week after week.”
“If you want to change your business, your country, your own life, be humble enough and open enough to listen to other points of view.”
When Hernán first worked in the hospitality industry, he was expected to have all the answers and be the expert. When he began working at La Victoria Lab his role became more about getting to the right questions to inspire his team to think creatively.
“Creative leaders are about the opportunities, not the solutions,” he says. “They’re about the questions, not the answers.” While leaders are used to having the answers, “we need to fall in love with questions.”
Motivate your team
Daniel Pink’s book Drive was a big influence on Hernán’s leadership approach. He uses the three elements of motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—outlined by Daniel to design a workspace and team journey built on those foundations of creativity.
Learn through doing
“People really change when they embrace a journey of doing,” Hernán says. At Intercorp, he helped design a creative approach to business strategy that brought leaders from across the company together. Several cohort groups of 6-8 people were designed to have a mix of seniority levels, industries, cognitive backgrounds, and gender diversity. The groups worked together over four months to envision the future of their businesses. In such a short timeframe, Hernán says they had to adopt creative behaviors like looking out and learning from others, crafting purpose statements, and collaborating to be successful.
It can be difficult to convince a leader who has historically been very successful that they need to change. Hernán tells Intercorp’s leaders that change is necessary because the world is changing. We’ll face new challenges and our same strategies won’t apply. “We have to be prepared to train our muscles to be future looking,” he says.
Be willing to be wrong
“Learn to change your mind,” Hernán says of the importance of accepting when you’re wrong and verbalizing it. It takes vulnerability to admit you’re wrong, but maintaining a learning mindset is one of the things he credits for his growth as a creative leader.
Seek out serendipity
Drive and focus can be very helpful at times, but Hernán encourages you to also seek out serendipity in your journey towards becoming a better leader. “Give yourself space for discovery, exploration, and getting lost,” he says of advice he’d give to his younger self. “To stumble on the unknowns.”
Learn to unlock the creative potential of your team and organization in our course Leading for Creativity.
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