At a lunch meeting recently, a client said to me “I need my staff to innovate, to think out of the box and I need it done urgently but have no idea how to go about this”.
This is what I hear a lot. Innovation seems to be the thing companies desire most of all to stay ahead of the pack, and they want it fast. I wish I could say it was easy. That there was a light switch or magic bullet solution to drive innovation in business, but there isn’t.
However, there is ONE THING you can do to ignite innovative thinking that really works fast, if done correctly.
The first thing we need to understand is that companies don't innovate, PEOPLE do! You need to get inside the head of your people and flip a switch inside there!
As human beings, we are risk-averse. We tend to play safe and stay within our comfort zones. Blame it on our ‘caveman’ heritage, where we were programmed to not put ourselves in harm's way. We are pre-disposed to not taking risks as the outcomes are unknown and uncertain, and it exposes us to potential danger.
In the corporate world, that danger translates into fear about how we will be perceived if we fail. The fear of being ridiculed or embarrassed by peers or superiors or the fear of losing your job is foremost in our minds. It is THIS very fear that we need to get over, to move from being risk-averse to becoming true risk-takers. Easier said than done though.
This is a MINDSET issue that needs to be strategically addressed. The approach to fixing this mindset issue is EMPOWERING people to FAIL. This is counterintuitive as we are not brought up to accept failure. On the contrary, we are taught early on in life that failing is a bad thing and that we should always strive to win against all odds.
We need to fix this CORE issue, as simply put, without failure there is no innovation. Period. To innovate you need to experiment and with experimentation comes failure. These two are joined at the hip.
The cure for the fear of failure is failing! Contradictory I know but that’s what it is. It's failure in small enough doses, that we eventually build up immunity to it. People need to know that it’s safe to try new things, to experiment and to fail and learn fast from this experience. This is precisely what innovative companies have adopted as a big part of their culture and what they empower their people to do consistently.
Once you have an idea and your data or initial validation supports it, create a plan to implement and launch this. Know that plans too must change and evolve, as your innovation idea evolves. Many executives, approvers of projects demand to see details and specifics of how this will work. They want to be certain of the outcomes. They get bogged down with the process and their own fear of failing or looking bad, rather than with the idea.
As a result, most innovation ideas don’t see the light of day. Plans are good to have but allow for flexibility. Know that nothing is cast in stone, and things will change along the way. You MUST allow for this.
The question now is how are your driving innovation in your team or company? Have you empowered your people to experiment and fail?
For more company culture tips and how to build a great place to work where innovation and creativity thrive, go here: https://www.transformandtranscend.co/company-culture
About the author
Ashok Miranda is a Business Transformation Architect and founder of Transform and Transcend, based in Singapore. He is the author of the book Culling Cuturitis: How To Rid Your Company Of This Toxic Disease and Build a Winning Company Culture.
Ashok is a much sought-after consultant, professional speaker and trainer and has helped businesses (startups, SME's and MNC's) reach their full potential and rise to greatness.
He has helped transform the mindset of thousands of businesses professionals across the region.
Ashok is driven by his passion and purpose to architect a better business world. He is on a mission to help companies be massively successful in these turbulent times by building winning company cultures that foster happy and engaged employees. Building strong and emotionally resonant customer-centric brands and designing transformative customer experiences that create ultra-loyal customers and true brand fans.