Image: Agitators at work at Heathrow Airport.
Andrew Curry writes: I was struck by an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review that argued that it takes three types of leaders to make social innovation happen: the agitator, the innovator, and the orchestrator:
An agitator brings the grievances of specific individuals or groups to the forefront of public awareness. An innovator creates an actionable solution to address these grievances. And an orchestrator coordinates action across groups, organizations, and sectors to scale the proposed solution.
The article is by Julie Battilana and Marissa Kimsey, and a couple of things struck me straightaway about this model. The first is how closely these map back onto the Three Horizons model. The second is that although they are writing about social innovation, this model applies to pretty much any kind of deep or structural innovation (Disruptive? Transformative?). You need all three roles; the authors think they might blur, but I’m less sure about that. Anyway:
Agitation without innovation means complaints without ways forward, and innovation without orchestration means ideas without impact.
And maybe one more thought. Large organisations are usually full of orchestrators, lighter on innovators, and go out of their way to persecute agitators. In fact, there’s usually a whole corporate lexicon to disparage them, starting with “cynical” and escalating quickly from there.
The article is fairly detailed, and later on there’s a useful chart showing how each of the different types of leaders use the kinds of skills that leaders deploy.
One interesting aspect of the argument is that in the case study the authors use, of the French youth service organisation Unis-Cité, the leaders started out seeing themselves as innovators, but had to switch roles to agitators when the political climate changed and it became necessary to make the public case once again for youth service. As the article notes more broadly, mobilizing for social change is an “inherently political process.” But we tend to think of Three Horizons as a process that works its way from the visionary Third Horizon through the entrepreneurial Second to the managerial First. Systemic change isn’t always as tidy as that.