February 21, 2018

Risk-free innovation—is there such a thing?

Group discussionThought-provoking experience recently…

Organisation declines to do something new because success is not guaranteed—yes, guaranteed.

To be fair…

If you set-up a service to deliver or support innovation and growth, then how do you get paid if the innovation isn’t successful? To make an honest business of it, the buyer needs to accept they won’t get a straightforward win every time. Otherwise, it can’t really be innovation that’s being done—not if success is guaranteed. But does the buyer have that poise? Or does every single thing have to be a winner?

The result of this paradox might be very risk-averse innovators, who only propose certainties.

The question is…

Can doing something truly new ever be a sure thing?

What do you think?

Total control—total paralysis?

Female hand signing a formWe’re addicted to control—control of our businesses, our public services, and our non-profits and charities. It seems so logical: The tighter we can nail down what happens in our organisations, the more efficient and reliable and predictable they will be.

That could be true, assuming people can actually work in such a regime. (In fact, they can’t, but that’s another story.)

The other trouble is…

Control everything and it becomes impossible for anybody to innovate. Nobody can take any kind of speculative risk. They can’t act on a hunch. It’s just too difficult.

A remarkable number of people I know holding really quite senior positions have no discretion to spend even a few hundred pounds, in some cases, not even a few pounds (or dollars or euros).

So their bosses must think they have a monopoly on innovative ideas. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s just not credible.


Total control means, if not total, at least partial paralysis.

In a fast-changing world, that’s really not smart.

Paralysis means stagnation, and stagnation means getting out of date.


We need control, yes. We need a little chaos too.

Evidence – Finding your own

Group in discussionWe generally want evidence that something works, and our first thought is it’s to be found “out there.” What have other people done?

There are sound enough reasons for looking at things this way, and it can be important for influencing stakeholders and their decisions.

But at the same time, the habitual response is a sophisticated form of helplessness.


We could look for our own evidence. We could check the idea out for ourselves in actual experience. Then we would have the certainty of inner knowing.

The voice of direct experience has a different quality.

Much more powerful than “evidence” on a piece of paper.

In other words, whatever it is, just try it.