April 14, 2015


Northrop Grumman CEO Says Leaders Play Role in Shaping Innovation Culture

For Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush, there are two keys to creating a prosperous culture of innovation within a company: discouraging risk aversion and encouraging diversity. Leaders play a key role in establishing both.

According to Bush, it is incumbent upon leaders to abandon a risk averse mindset in favor of a risk management approach. This careful distinction, Bush says, will create a climate where failure is not feared but embraced as a necessary element to the innovation process.

“Business leaders in any industry must work hard to squelch that very human trait that often drives people to avoid failure – or even the perception of failure,” Bush said. “Failures are inherent in pushing technology to its maximum. If you are going to have real innovation, you’ve got to push the technology.”

Bush said he also believes that managing and overcoming failure is a trait he values when looking to identify future leaders within Northrop Grumman.

“When I look for leaders to advance in our company, I look for those who have experienced failure and have learned from it; that’s usually the most valuable learning anyone can receive,” he said.

The second prong of leading innovation, Bush says, is fostering diversity.

“We know that diverse thinking and an inclusive environment generates better ideas and fosters stronger team commitment, collaboration and engagement – all of which are vital components of innovation,” Bush said.

Bush delivered the remarks last week in front of Johns Hopkins Carey Business School students and faculty, as well as members of the general public, at the school’s Harbor East Campus; Bush spoke on the topic of innovation and leadership as part of Carey Business School’s Leaders+Legends speaker series. To view the entire video of his speech, click here.

Also in the remarks, Bush recounted his rise from an MIT graduate and engineer to the CEO of Northrop Grumman, labeling himself “an accidental CEO.” Since Bush was named CEO in 2006, Northrop Grumman’s stock price has more than doubled. Bush also touted the company’s recent innovative products, specifically the development of unmanned aircraft and the James Webb Space Telescope.

Click here to read a full transcript of Bush's remarks.

The next Leaders+Legends will feature Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman. It will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Thursday, April 30 at the Carey Business School’s Harbor East Campus, 100 International Drive, Baltimore. To register for the event, click here.