The philosopher Aristotle diagnosed fear as ‘pain arising from the anticipation of evil’. Over 2000 years later, C-suite executives at major companies the world over are certainly feeling this specific pain when it comes to innovation. Many anticipate the possibility of leaping towards news heights, only to plummet down to unknown depths…. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s easy to see why corporations feel incapacitated by fear when it comes to innovation. After all, their fear is often fuelled by concrete realities, such as the complex company bureaucracy and infrastructure that innovation campaigns have to be tailored to. Some companies also fear innovation will compromise corporate security and intellectual property.
While this kind of trepidation is understandable, the complacency some companies have towards innovation is not. Especially when you consider that it is predicted that digital disruption is estimated to wipe out 40% of Fortune 500 firms in the next decade.
The good news is that fostering a thriving and fearless culture of innovation isn’t the monumental task it might first appear to be. This is largely thanks to the development of corporate idea and innovation management software. Although this software has been available for over a decade, its modern iterations are proving increasingly effective at addressing the concerns of the companies who are still yet to experiment with it.
Just in time for Halloween, we’ve compiled the top 4 fears associated with corporate innovation and attempted to “exorcize” the demons commonly associated with them…
1. Preparation Anxiety
A major fear many companies face arises from the prospect of correctly allocating time, energy, and resources to ensure their innovation effort succeeds. Failing to prepare sufficiently could cause major problems down the track, so it’s clear to see why preparation anxiety is so prevalent.
The first step to conquering this fear is settling on a clear target for the innovation initiative. This may sound like a no-brainer, but a comprehensive study conducted by PA consulting found 53% of respondents said they used the term ‘innovation’ to describe different things – revealing that a lack of clarity and focus can drastically stymie innovation efforts.
Confucius once said, “the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”. In a similar way, the best way to kick-start a thriving innovation culture is to launch a pilot focusing on a specific department or team. After the pilot is completed – revealing where innovation efforts could be most productively concentrated – a ‘proof of concept’ will be established. This can, in turn, serve as the template for innovation campaigns that can be replicated across the company.
2. Fearing Loss of Control
For many managers, the idea of giving employees carte blanche to contribute suggestions and share feedback is enough to cause serious reservations about launching an innovation campaign.
In the 2017 Forbes article ‘The Real Reason Your Employees Can’t Innovate’, author Liz Ryan observed that “in some organizations, only managers are allowed to have ideas. CEOs talk about the fact that great ideas can come from anywhere, but in real-life departments are protective of their turf.”
To maintain an employee base that is committed to taking your company to new heights, encouraging innovation is critical. A study by ReportLinker found that 78% of employees who say their organization promotes creativity and innovation are committed to their employer.
“Innovation means letting go of prescribed notions about what will work and what won’t.”
– Liz Ryan, Founder and CEO of Human Workplace
To achieve a balance between giving employees a broad remit for ideation and retaining control over innovation trajectories, it’s important to have a clear-cut process in place. With innovation management software, managers can refine the focus of innovation challenges, monitor employee collaboration, and develop idea submissions so they align more closely with key company objectives.
In this TED talk, Nicole Jones – Global Leader of Innovation for Delta Airlines – provides insights on getting past the fear of failure and embracing the innovative spirit.
3. Fear of Being Open with Innovation
The benefits of involving internal and external stakeholders in innovation campaigns are clear. However, many companies are still hesitant to proceed with large-scale innovation campaigns that target multiple demographics – largely out of fear that corporate intellectual property will be compromised.
Integrated online technologies are essential for expediting innovation campaigns. As such, the recent data breaches that have affected major online companies have provided ample reason for corporate decision-makers to get cold feet when considering using innovation management networks. Case in point, the Texas-based marketing firm Epsilon – which managed email communications for over 2,500 clients – suffered a breach in 2011, resulting in 50 client databases being stolen.
To overcome the fear of being open with innovation, it’s important to recognize the level of control offered by innovation management platforms. For example, by utilizing dedicated software, managers will be able to set the permissions of campaign users, ensuring they have no access to potentially sensitive information.
4. Fear of Failure
There are plenty of costly failures lending credence to this fear– with even major companies like Facebook and Amazon having their share of horror stories. However, the stark reality is that on today’s disruptive corporate landscape, it’s important to strike a balance between conservative, incremental innovation and ‘all-or-nothing’ disruptive campaigns. Not innovating out of fear of failure will eventually guarantee failure, rather than keep it at bay.
Phillip Morris International is a great example of a company that recognized how fear of failure was closely linked to a fear of change and developed a measured approach to overcome it. Despite being the world’s most successful cigarette business, PMI is now focusing heavily on forging a healthier ‘smoke-free’ future. The pursuit of this goal has involved a mixture of incremental improvements to existing products and the creation of groundbreaking tobacco-free alternatives.
PMI is a company that has clearly overcome fear of failure, by investing in a smoke free future.
So how can C-suite executives get past the fear of failure and embrace disruptive innovation? Crowdsourcing is the most effective strategy. By opening an innovation campaign to include an entire organization, a consensus can be gained as to what strategies will yield the best results.
Crowdsourcing also makes it easy to tap into the collective intelligence of your organization, ensuring the right decisions are made for the company as a whole (and not just a few select groups). It’s also a great way to relieve the pressure that would otherwise be placed on a select group of innovators charged with coming up with a breakthrough idea.
How Idea Management Can Help You Innovate with Confidence
Throughout this article, we’ve touched on the importance of idea management when it comes to dealing with innovation anxiety. While some of these fears can be addressed simply by employing a structured innovation management methodology, most of them actually require a dedicated innovation management platform to implement company-wide. However, to comprehensively tackle all of the fears associated with innovation management, it’s crucial to employ a high-end innovation management solution, which gives you ultimate control and guides you to success.
- Preparation Anxiety: While building an innovation initiative from scratch might be intimidating, there is no need to reinvent the wheel… Working with an established vendor who has experience within your industry will allow you to utilize field-proven best practices in order to streamline the setup process. Also, one of the easiest ways to get the ball rolling is through a pilot system which offers a scalable path to an enterprise implementation. Better yet, use a platform that offers extensive workflow self-admin, allowing you to reconfigure the system ad-hoc – meaning you don’t have to get everything right on the first try…
- Fearing Loss of Control: An advanced crowdsourcing tool should allow admins to set clear parameters for innovation campaigns, as well as monitor user interactions. This can promote a thriving culture of innovation, while also ensuring that ideas are preapproved by senior staff before publication.
- Fear of Being Open with Innovation: It’s crucial to find a solution that gives you full control of the visibility of each stage in your campaign. This way, you can open up your system to a degree that you’re comfortable with, and gradually expand from there, adding permission for individual groups to see individual campaigns based on profile criteria. If intellectual property is still a concern then it could be worth finding a vendor that offers on-premise deployment to your local servers.
Fear of Failure:
- In order to ensure the success of your project, it’s important to not only get the right technical solution, but also the right strategic solution. Working with a vendor that offers professional services and customer success best-practices will give you added support from end-to-end. It’s also important to secure buy-in from a senior sponsor within your organization to lead by example with participation and incentivization.
Why NOT Innovating should scare you…
Although we’ve spent this article busting fears, it wouldn’t be in keeping with the Halloween season if we didn’t give you one at least one reason to be afraid…
An estimated 92% of companies recognize the importance of innovation, especially when it comes to remaining competitive and generating consistent growth. Because of this, it’s safe to say that resting on your laurels is no longer an option. The old expression ‘innovate or die’ is truer today than ever before!
Although just about any innovative venture comes with its fair share of potential hazards, resistance to change and uncertainty can be fatal. To quote a less ancient genius, Mark Zuckerberg, “the biggest risk is not taking any risk.”