Author | Rick Roper, SVP Human Capital Services
Both Apple and Amazon started in a garage. Facebook started on a college campus, and the youngest CEO in the world is 17 years old. While it is easy to attribute their success to products and technology, the reality is that all of this existed before they got there. They simply found a better way to do things, and ultimately, it was innovation that made them great. Somewhere, someone with nothing to lose is developing the next best thing, and they will put many of us out of business. Who dares, wins.
The connection between risk and innovation.
Most smart business leaders know the significance of staying relevant. However, many do not understand their role in establishing a culture that allows companies to innovate and remain competitive. Two people working in a garage do not need to establish a culture in order to innovate because they can directly influence every situation. However, organizations comprised of hundreds or even thousands of employees have no choice but to ensure a culture exists that aligns with their values. Innovation at scale requires a culture that allows leaders to underwrite risk to develop the next best thing. In other words, employees must feel “OK” to mess up to some degree. However, it is human nature to be uncomfortable with failure and tolerate risk because these circumstances produce stress and anxiety. Therefore, it becomes easier to stay put—to make the safe play. As a result, the organization becomes stagnant, and within a few short years, the company is not performing at a high enough level to compete.
Innovation starts internally—at the top.
There is plenty of literature that encourages culture and innovation, but not much devoted to what the leader must undergo, internally, to make it happen. Asking leaders to establish a culture of innovation is easier said than done—they need coping mechanisms to tolerate risk in order to provide their organizations the capacity to innovate. HigherEchelon’s Resilient and Adaptable Leader© program trains these mental and emotional skills that form the foundation of high performance, and in this case, innovation. Skills to improve stress and energy management, psychological hardiness, growth mindset, and adaptive thinking help reduce the anxiety associated with uncertainty, risk, and change; thus, providing the leader with a set of tools to better manage themselves so that innovation has a chance. We believe, that establishing a culture that fosters innovation starts internally with the leader. Once the leaders catch on—that is where the magic happens, and it cascades throughout the organization.
Visit us at www.HigherEchelon.com and read more about our Resilient and Adaptable Leader© program if you want leaders who are capable of driving innovation.