A digital vision and a proactive approach to developing new capabilities are absolutely essential for channel innovation. I was reminded of these critical requirements as I answered questions for Dr. Mathew Allen Woolsey, host of the Transformational Energy Leadership internet radio show.

Our session, Leading Through Transformational Channels, explored a wide range of topics from defining “channel” as a business term for the show’s listeners through emerging channel innovation topics, including transformational forces, building communities, social movements, economic development and human-centric innovation as a counterpoint for technology-led change. We covered leadership needs for business and consumer channel innovations and found both differences and common ground.

From Dr. Woolsey’s perspective, innovation is the lifeblood for any organization seeking to survive and prosper, and successful leadership requires energy and organizational savvy. In my most recent digital research report, CEO Insights on Innovating the Distributor for the Digital Age, we identified foresight and a new mindset as personal development challenges for leaders. As my conversation with Dr. Woolsey unfolded, we added at least four new requirements for leaders that would drive channel innovation:

  • Balancing possibilities and permissions. Digital technology and evolving sourcing preferences create the possibility for leaders to offer new channel innovations. However, success ultimately relies on customer permission, granted through purchases, endorsements and loyalty. It’s easy to get out in front of customers, but the challenge for leaders is to keep their business in business while they work toward implementing a transformational business model.
  • Sharkin’ it. Bringing customers along on an innovation journey requires a special kind of energy that we can call “sharkin’ it.” Movement is everything. Just as a shark must constantly move to stay alive, so must innovative leaders constantly stay in motion, by looking for successes stories, learning from failure, pushing their people and looking for organic change as it bubbles up in the company and its markets.
  • Master megaphoning. It might be hard for you to accept this, but you have to know that your customers just aren’t that into you! Yes, the products and services offered are highly valued, but when it comes to innovation, customers are usually in a wait-and-see mode. As a result, leaders need to tell stories about new solutions over and over, so that they are building awareness and momentum. They need to use traditional and digital methods in person and online as a megaphone for getting the word out about their innovations.
  • Keep the faith. While it is absolutely true that business innovation is mandatory for success in changing markets, the decision to transform a business is ultimately a choice, one that leaders may embrace or not. Success does not come overnight, and leaders face uncertainty, doubt and rejection at every step on their push for change. Because of this, the ability of a leader to maintain, direct and demonstrate a high level of energy is a key factor in their success or failure, and that energy comes from a personal reservoir ultimately determined by the leader’s ability to keep the faith!