Well some of us do, but sadly most tend to become risk-avoiding because of the environment they are in or been associated with for long periods, where avoidance rubs off, it seeps into the soul.
Many enjoy being simply ‘passive’, avoiding anything that smacks of being ‘proactive’; it is safer to be ‘reactive’. Innovation and heaven can equally wait.
Putting it simply most people and organizations are just afraid to take risks and this fear takes over and drives their choices. Innovation is certainly something that suffers from this fear of risk. Organizations miss critical opportunities, individuals fail to speak out and argue for a given change or innovative idea. We can simply stop growing, to want to become something more, we take the easy option, we avoid risk.
Reducing innovation to the lowest common denominator.
How often have you felt all the risk-mitigation has been taken out of the innovation concept you have been working upon, for it to emerge as a pale reflection of the original idea? Often I can hear.
We need to be reminded that innovation is the act (risk taking) of introducing something new (creativity) that adds potential value. By reducing the risk we often do not produce something better, just simply an alternative to what is already out there. Minimise the risk, strive for certainty, avoid the awkward questions, just keep the head down and toe the line.
Our organizations talk about the need for risk but don’t walk the risk path.
The understanding of risk will always have associated with some fear, discomfort and resistance and that can be an uncomfortable place to go. The whole ‘act’ of letting go is never easy. It is the ability to manage risk that reduces its fear. It is through experimentation we gain our best learning, we actually are forward learning as we are accelerating our knowledge.
Surely the more we attempt something different, proving or disproving it makes for exciting work, we become motivated, curious and wanting more, providing there is the encouraging environment to experiment and explore.
As I have suggested before “shaping ideas, taking risks, allowing experimentation, providing tolerance (of failure or debate), exploring the unknowns, all should be an integral part of innovation”.
Innovation is risk-taking so let’s embrace it, not just for the sake of taking risks where you can become addicted to the thrill but in constantly seeing the positive payoff within the risk, it needs being appropriate and set against the ‘given’ situation and the learning in potential loss but recognizing the potential in gain.
The search is for meaningful contributions
There is so much negativity swirling around our organizations, a real detachment that is raising alarm bells. Today’s workers are “neither empowered nor inspired to navigate the challenges faced by twenty-first-century organizations” according to a recent Deloitte report and commented upon here by Steve Denning . As Steve observes in this article, as a result, creative, passionate workers simply don’t want to work in organizations with “clearly defined roles, organizational silos, and predictability”.
We are also in real need of better “inner working lives” and we need to look for ways to allow our people to become engaged, feeling part of something that allows for being more creative and passionate. An environment offering somewhere that is seen as more productive, looking to build for future contribution and finding ways to be more collegial, working in teams on these experiments and explorations to learn and advance the innovation thinking. It allows us to grow from within.
We need to find ways for higher levels of risk-tolerance. We push the ordinary back into the extraordinary and all of us what to be associated with those sort of moments, those events that give meaning, purpose and pride into what we do. We need to allow risk in, so risk can come and live with you.
Our leaders need to lead and guide.
When it comes to innovation we do need to look to our management to manage option proliferation, resolve criteria disagreements, overcome stalled decisions, clarify rejections or discounting new ideas before they are ‘fully’ formed
Those leaders assigned to lead innovation need to become more engaged, stop the limited participation and take the time innovation does require. Head nodding or ‘just’ talking innovation just does not cut it!
Commitment does matter, enormously, up and down the organization.
We need to recognize allowing risk is becoming the basis for a commitment to change
Wanting innovation requires the need to encourage the management of risk. Today we are in markets with slower growth, higher volatility and potential for disruption. Risk needs to be proactive not reactive.
Equally the sentiment that we cannot disrupt our core needs some shifting in thinking as others are busy working on ways to do that to you at this very minute. Risk comes from not knowing.
We need to manage the ‘certainty of return’ by making the knowledge that comes from incremental steps of experiment to validate an idea into a new innovation needs this consistently improving the business case. That comes from steady ‘readiness-based decisions that prototypes or pilots put into the hands of the consumer or customer to explore around, will advance our knowledge, each time of the potential value and ‘seen’ worth of this concept over the existing ones in the market place.
Shifting our thinking can be gradual in learning
We need to develop those risk-mitigation steps to constantly increase confidence; we need to look more internally or with our partners at our capabilities to measure the controllable factors and events to keep innovation on track and we need to seek out individual stakeholder discussions to manage their unique concerns. This is far more a shift to execution than relying on market attractiveness conditions alone.
Thinking risk in those different and manageable ways to move forward and grow
We need to mitigate uncertainty by constantly reiterating known and unknown risks through these constant engagements in experimentation, prototyping, piloting concepts through. This needs to be in a more dynamic ‘management of the portfolio’ concept, from concept to commercialization process.
A place where risk-mitigation needs to be in-built all the way, to build knowledge as it ‘reveals’ itself. In innovation, mostly completely new to the world it is never apparent, you have to ‘tease ‘ it out on its value and contribution. Everything simply cannot be available when you often just don’t know, you take small steps often to feel your way and build that knowledge up.
We need to understand our reach and ability to grasp
The ability to push on and find out, to stretch, to understand our reach and our grasp, does need some risk taking but in thoughtful, measured steps. Good innovation needs measured risk-taking and let’s learn the ways to allow our innovating to happen and get our passion and engagement back, flowing through the veins of our organizations.
We need a mantra of ‘build-test-feedback-revise’ iterations performing constant steps and learning to gather information to reduce uncertainty. One that is far more agile, vibrant, dynamic, flexible that applies a more leaner, faster and more adaptive and risk-based approach. The risk-contingency is about constant steps and learning to gather information to reduce uncertainty.
We need to move forward with a degree of certainty but also perhaps a little fear.
How about this as an idea to explore?
How about approving some pilot projects and providing resources to have unfettered six-month periods with no rules and no reviews but at the end of this agreed period ‘something’ has to be seen and tested by a customer.Then you embed the learning and further scale
It encourages risk but in clear time frames and with a definitive result that advances knowledge and takes you closer to its future value.
You look and encourage new perspectives. Is this that risky or is it perhaps allowing risk to be managed in new ways of learning?
We do need to rethink the management of risk for innovation.
New business growth is very different from business as usual but in all honesty, is there that much business as usual still around? We do need to loosen up our thinking on risk when it comes to innovation, otherwise our growth will remain limited, stuck in the fear of the unknowns?