The truly transformational impact happened, however, when a visionary leader named Hideo Shima took charge of the critical train line between Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya. Shima pushed an innovative vision of high-speed rail or “bullet trains,” as they became known. He used a combination of charisma, confidence, and engineering science to demonstrate to the government and his teams that this bold way of thinking about rail transport was possible.
Shima’s new train lines operated at nearly 200 miles per hour, cutting the six-hour trip from Tokyo to Osaka by half. He achieved this by removing constraints that had previously been considered “fixed.” For instance, the traditional “wheels-on-steel” carriage was supplanted by magnetic levitation, which massively reduced friction, and fossil fuels were replaced by electricity, which was less expensive and easier to access.
In the end, Shima delivered a true transformation that had a huge impact on the economy of Japan, as well as its national pride.
For a lot of companies today, implementing digital transformation can be almost as challenging as overhauling an entire country’s train system. In order to succeed, they will also need their own Hideo Shima, their “innovation hero.”
Our company, FROM Vision to Victory, has helped dozens of large enterprises execute their digital transformation initiatives. Based on what we’ve seen, legacy companies that achieve real success at transformation are able to do it, at least in part, because they have an innovation hero. This is someone who has the vision and tenacity to make it their personal mission to drag their enterprise toward digital excellence, no matter how challenging or how much resistance they face.
At your company, your innovation hero might be your CEO, CIO, or CMO, or it might be someone a few levels down. Perhaps it’s you? In any case, the innovation hero inevitably winds up acting well beyond their assigned purview. This is because no matter the level, the demands of digital innovation and transformation cut broadly across an organization and, other than perhaps the CEO, nobody has the breadth of authority to cover it all.
So how can you find your innovation hero? Here are their key qualities or “superpowers” that you need to look for.