The Magic Spark Model: Learning to Innovate

Business start up, start, new project or new idea concept. Wooden blocks with launching rocket graphic arranged in pyramid shape and a man is holding the top one.

By Mostafa Sayyadi and Michael J. Provitera

What is the best way to develop future leaders? A vital question for the future of companies. We need a new model. The magic spark is the name we have chosen for this model. To understand the magic spark model, it is equivalent to a triage in which a few questions determine how to treat the patient. Past, present to a somewhat predictable future. The spark model uses a systemic understanding of an individual and encourages leadership development based on the initial diagnoses.

Introduction

The industrial giant, Japan, uses a leadership development approach aimed at attracting adolescents and developing their abilities using an individual skills-based development system. 1,2,3,4,5 This is better than focusing only on management theories and case studies. We need a way to strengthen the systemic and exploratory ways to make an impact on effective training for future leaders.

The magic spark model focuses on the actual leadership training and mentoring method by implementing patience, benevolence, and building real friendships between the future leaders. The goal is to innovatively optimize existing processes and activities by developing leadership skills. Interpersonal relationships between mentors and trainees working together on project from multiple parts of the organization will also strengthen the systemic approach needed for future leaders.

Using theories and case studies are not ignored but expanded and facilitated by upfront and follow up application. Constantly encouraging future leaders to innovate both themselves and their organizations. In the next section, we will look at the educational content of a leadership development program based on the magic spark model.

The Magic Spark Model’s Leadership Development Program 

Depending on the type of industry and activities of each company and its business environment, the content of the leadership development of each company will be specified directly for that organization. 6 We suggest that managers take two main steps: 1) Intermittent and gradual development of trainees’ leadership skills from the beginning to the innovative leader which we call a step-up program; and 2) Creating a systematic and integrated approach to their organization by conducting a one-hour to three-hour interview before beginning the training with each participant. By providing basic training and trainees’ awareness of theories and theoretical principles, and simultaneously with the gradual development of their leadership skills, more practical case studies related to projects will be provided to trainees in the form of real-world exercises. We have an interactive interest in helping CEOs from around the world on current issues that need to be addressed, and these become the basis for leadership training and development. These case studies will create a spirit of exploration, innovation, and transformation among trainees and require searching among different parts of their own organization and gaining a systematic and integrated view of their entire organization. 7 Providing these case studies is also a step-by-step training platform that will become more rigorous at each stage. As these case studies become more difficult, collaboration and sharing of ideas among trainees are encouraged to improve innovation and collaboration. Our steering committee matches each participant with the best actual case study to develop the highest skill level.

Begin with the analysis of the current situation and future needs of both the participant and their organization. Attempting to ascertain an understanding the organization’s strategy and competitors. Now that the gap between the current situation and long-term goals, identify the skills necessary to meet future needs of both the leaders and their organization. 

Blend into the training and development the principles and concepts of applied theory and case studies. Build a cadre of presenters in the leadership development program by establishing mentors and external professionals. After introducing theoretical knowledge and case studies, establish role models and share their experiences with members. Invite successful company managers or examples of successful external managers in the industry and share their experiences with trainees.

Design projects that trainees will face in the future. Build steering committees within the framework of the training so that future leaders of different departments explore different departments and share ideas with each other to suggest innovative solutions to solve problematic issues. Designing future projects and gradually making them more difficult, implementing gradual increases, and sharing ideas.

Case Study

A few years ago, we provided management consulting services to an international financial company in Australia. Our initial assessment showed that despite the company’s rapid growth in the market and its significant share of the Australian financial market, the company still suffered from mismanagement in its human resource management and a lack of a systemic approach. Improving the systemic approach required improving leadership skills. And the lack of required training caused the company, which was mostly made up of Southeast Asian immigrant staff and Australian executives who lacked the required leadership skills and were sometimes unfamiliar with new management concepts, caused a level of inertia that caused the organization to fail to perform well enough to its full potential.

After initial assessments and initial meetings with the CEO, and an explanation of the magic spark model, the CEO showed interest in this model. Although at first, he did not find investing in leadership development very profitable, in subsequent meetings, explaining in detail each step of the model, he was convinced that the magic spark model would have an impact on the company’s ultimate performance in the long run. Therefore, we designed and implemented the magic spark model based on its two main steps. This management consulting project, which lasted about ten months, convinced the trainees to focus enough on the projects at hand that would advance the organization, despite having multiple tasks, we helped the leaders by building teams and working with mentors. And the mentors, with the help of our program implementation of leadership development, several executives were able to perform their duties and get team members so well involved in the learning process that positive change was imminent.

After presenting the theoretical concepts and case studies, the cross functional teams were selected from members who belonged to different departments of the organization so that sharing of ideas among their members would lead to the growth of a systemic approach. Continuous communication of mentors and sharing their experiences with trainees and, even in the later steps, communication of successful company managers or successful external managers in the industry with trainees led to the greater effectiveness of this learning program. Mentors, as well as successful managers, challenged the trainees as much as possible to strengthen their exploratory and innovative approaches. Team members’ communication with the company’s external stakeholders also helped develop their communication and facilitated a best practice benchmarking relationship.

One trainee wrote an assessment note that “attending this learning program opened our eyes to the real problems that arose from the lack of teamworking among us and the lack of integration among the various departments of the company.” “I think this is a better place to stay and make my dreams come true,” wrote another trainee. Another trainee described the program as “the most challenging period of learning.” And one trainee even wrote that this learning program “has improved my relationship with my spouse and has improved my performance in the workplace.”

An association be established for the traineeship graduates of this learning program so that a strong network would continue after the training. This continuous communication and sharing of the experiences and ideas led to further breakthroughs beyond the training platform as a continuous improvement mantra was ongoing. “This group led to a constant sharing of experiences and enabled us to innovate after this training program,” said one member. Members’ problems, stories, and ideas were shared via e-mail in the form of a monthly newsletter among the members of the association, and this led to the maintenance of communication between the members and the growth of innovation in them.

The Impact 

This program led to the improvement of the communication and leadership skills. The growth of the systemic approach and teamworking built a more integrated and innovative system that was better at solving organizational problems and providing more innovative and creative collaboration. The challenges of each department were better understood by the other departments, creating greater intimacy among the workforce led to a culture of collaboration. One executive mentioned “this is a better place to stay and make my dreams come true,” was the same in other participants, which cost the company much less than before.

About the Authors

Mostafa-Sayydi Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders.

Michael-J-Provitera (1)Michael J. Provitera is a senior faculty professor of Management and Leadership, in the Andreas School of Business at Barry University, Miami, Florida, USA . He is an author of Level Up Leadership: Engaging Leaders for Success, published by Business Expert Press. 

References

  1. Yokota, H. (2021). School leadership development practices in Japan, International Journal of Leadership in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2021.1972164
  2. Hochi, Y., Yamada, Y., Iwaasa, T., Ebato, T., Ohshiro, T. & Mizuno, M. (2020). Self-leadership Development Program in Elite Youth Soccer Players in Japan. In: Kantola, J., Nazir, S. (eds) Advances in Human Factors, Business Management and Leadership. AHFE 2019. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 961. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-20154-8_58
  3. Banyai, C. (2009). Community Leadership: Development and the Evolution of Leadership in Himeshima, Rural Society, 19(3), 241-261. https://doi.org/10.5172/rsj.19.3.241
  4. Nabers, D. (2008). China, Japan and the Quest for Leadership in East Asia. German Institute of Global and Area Studies. http://www.giga-hamburg.de/workingpapers
  5. Fukushige, A. & Spicer, D.P. (2007). Leadership preferences in Japan: an exploratory study. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 28(6), 508-530.  https://doi.org/10.1108/01437730710780967
  6. Holt, S., Hall, A. & Gilley, A. (2018). Essential Components of Leadership Development Programs. Journal of Managerial Issues, 30(2), 214–229. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45176579
  7. March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71–87. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2634940

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