Stony Brook College of Business Innovation Center News
07

On Friday, May 1, Dr. Samuel T. Hunter visited the College of Business for the Organizations, Groups, and Management seminar. Dr. Hunter is an Associate Professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Penn State University and is a prolific scholar in leadership and innovation. Dr. Hunter has published over 55 articles and book chapters, edited a book on multilevel issues in innovation, and received over 2.3 million dollars in grant funding. His consulting clients and partners include NATO, Oakley, Lockheed Martin, Epic Games, Google, and DDI consulting.

His talk highlighted myths in perceptions of leadership and innovation. Specifically, according to Dr. Hunter, many modern organizations report a strong desire to be more creative, yet leaders simultaneously report difficulty in accomplishing innovative goals.  He believes a big reason for the disconnect between wanting to be innovative and being able to manage the innovative process are the misconceptions surrounding both leadership and innovation.  As a means to overcome these misconceptions, he outlined three persistent myths about each topic, respectively.  

Leadership Myths

In his discussion of leadership myths, Dr. Hunter suggested that people often erroneously believe that leadership is the responsibility of a single person. Instead, his work suggests that a pair of leaders may be more suited for facing the challenges and paradoxes of creating innovative products and processes. For example, a leader pair may assign each leader the competing goals of supporting new ideas and selecting which ideas are selected for further pursuit. A current study suggests that leader pairs may be most effective at earlier points within the innovation process, while single leaders may be more suited to later stages.

Second, Dr. Hunter discussed the myth that leaders may be less fallible than the rest of us. He shared several examples of leaders that have made mistakes and discussed some reasons, such as the complexity of the leadership role, which may actually make leaders inherently prone to making mistakes.

Third, Dr. Hunter challenged the notion that there is a single best approach to leadership. He showed several examples of leaders with different styles that were very successful in their fields, and described how the CIP model (Charismatic, Ideological, and Pragmatic leadership styles) contributes to our understanding of the multiple pathways by which leaders can be successful.

Innovation Myths

One of the most interesting and frustrating myths about innovation is that people say they are accepting of new and original ideas, but behave to the contrary. The success of movie sequels, the doubts about previous emerging technologies, as well as findings from several studies suggest the opposite to be true: most people prefer products that are fairly familiar to us. However, being forceful with new ideas may not be necessary for gaining acceptance. To illustrate this point, Dr. Hunter discussed some of his recent findings that being aggressive about pushing for innovation may be most effective in unsupportive environments but may not be necessary in nicer, more supportive environments.

In the second innovation myth, Dr. Hunter talked about the importance of teams in the innovation process. While people often believe that innovation comes from a single inventor working in isolation, it is more often the result of dedicated teamwork.  Further, teams tend to produce innovations that are of higher quality and have a greater impact on the world.

The final innovation myth, that innovation is focused on idea generation, is an oversimplification of the creative process. Instead, innovation is often the result of a series of trials and failures, and tends to be an iterative process. Dr. Hunter discussed the importance of learning from prototyping and being patient when things do not go quite as planned. The talk ended with an interactive discussion of common myths in leadership and innovation that come across in our own lives.

In addition to his seminar talk, Dr. Hunter met with several College of Business faculty as well as the undergraduate research assistants in Dr. Cushenbery’s Leadership and Creativity Research Lab.

 

For more information about Dr. Hunter’s research, please visit his lab website at www.hunter.psu.edu.

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Stony Brook University Innovation Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3775

Phone: 631.632.7171
Fax: 631.632.8181