This is the second post in a series of four exploring the qualities of leading innovators.

On the first post, we explored how leading innovators find and act on opportunities. If you remember, I gave you “homework.” And if you did it, you probably felt liberated by the power of that short exercise. Let’s now move on and talk about this second quality of leading innovators.

Conductor of Effects

Another characteristic of innovators is their ability to act as conductors. Just as a conductor in an orchestra is able to provide leadership and integrate the different musical instruments to produce a masterpiece, effective innovators are able to provide direction, manage social factors, and orchestrate organizational efforts to produce something new that changes the organization and its customers. That process of innovation is not simple. It is not about having an idea, pitching it to someone, implementing it, and miraculously adaptation by everyone immediately follows.

How does innovation work then? Many authors have written and developed innovation models. In them, authors attempt to describe the steps, forces, drivers, and influences that take place in the innovation process. For example, renown author Roy G. Rothwell proposed a model in 1992 for process innovation in which he detailed a combination of idea generation, state of the art technology, elements of the organization (research, prototyping, manufacturing, and marketing), and the needs of society, all actors in the innovation process.

More recently, other authors have proposed other models, many of them with similar features. For example, in the book Making Innovation Work, the authors delineated a strategic model for innovation composed of six levers (value proposition, value chain, target customer, product and service, product technology, and enabling technology) arranged within two major categories (business model levers and technology levers).

Regardless of the proposed model for innovation, one can see that innovation is not a solo act. Innovators had to deal with the complexity of all of those components previously mentioned, and synchronize them in some type of rhythmic order as to produce the right tune for innovation to be born.

Leading Innovators at Work

Can we think of examples of innovators as conductors? From ancient, history offers that innovation comes as the price of wise orchestration. One prominent example of an ancient early innovator is recorded in the Bible in the Book of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah, who held the important position of cupbearer to the king of Persia in the mid-fifth century B.C., during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-424 B.C.), petitioned the king to be sent to the City of Judah to rebuild it. Nehemiah became an innovator because he created new value for his people.

He magnificently orchestrated the shipment of materials, assignments of people, managed communication, fought change “anti-bodies” along the way with neighbor nations who did not want to see Jerusalem walls re-built, and lastly adjusted construction strategies to complete the work that restored a sense of national identity to the people of Israel.

More recently, we can think of innovators like Anthony Tan, recognized by Fast Company as one of the most creative people in business in 2018. Tan, CEO of Grab, a Singapore-based technology company, recognized how hard it was to get a taxi in Southeast Asia.

As a result of the opportunity recognition, a taxi app was developed. Tan, explained that getting taxi drivers who were not tech-savvy to buy into such a new concept was hard. But Tan was convinced that this new way to secure a cab ride could add security to users and a more precise time for rides, benefiting both the taxi drivers and those needing a taxi.

He orchestrated the social change to combat the change antibodies and help people to think differently about technology. He also met and coordinated the support of investors, in addition to the research and development effort, experiencing at times setbacks but optimistically building the momentum that made the innovation a reality.

Today, Grab is present in over 196 cities with over 5 million users, and the app has been transformed into a platform for everything from bike sharing to food delivery, and mobile payments.

Reflection Moment 

Day 1. Are you ready? Get your small stack of post-its, a pen or pencil, and a little more of wall space. As you review the text above, answer the following. In driving innovation, who are my key stakeholders? Use one sticky note per thought. Then, answer the following. How are they related to each other? Then, walk away.

Day 2. Review the wall. When you look at those key stakeholders and how they are related, ask yourself the following: What key resource(s) am I orchestrating well? Put a dot in the post-it that reflects that resource. If it’s not on the wall, get a post it and attach it to the wall with a dot. Then, ask yourself, which resource is missing or I am not managing well? If it’s on the wall, scribe a star in it; otherwise, get a post it and do so. Then, walk away.

Day 3. When you look at the stakeholders, relationships, dots, and stars, the aim is to understand what you do well and how all of those components interact to produce what you’re looking for; It’s all a system–effects need to be understood as the product of how all of those things act as a system. (We will talk about systems in another post in the future.) For now, your mission is to devise a roadmap to begin closing the gaps.


The upcoming posts will explore the next two characteristics of leading innovators. Read you soon!

Always motivated, lugo

©2018 LugoSantiago Enterprise Group

References and Notes:

Bernstein, J. 2018, “The most creative people in business in 2018,” Fast Company, [online] Available at

Davila, T., Epstein, M., & Shelton, R. 2006, Making innovation work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Wharton School Publishing, pp. 24, 41.

Freischlad, N. 2015, “Three years, $340M funding, millions of users: GrabTaxi’s Anthony Tan reflects on the journey”, TechinAsia, retrieved from

Rothwell, R. 1994, “Towards the fifth-generation innovation process”, International Marketing Review, Vol. 11 No. 1, p. 7.

Walton, J. H., Matthews, V. H., & Chavalas, M. W. 2000, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 472.