I am writing this after a busy day here in Melbourne Australia, where I have had the honor of being one of five evaluators sitting on an international panel to hear and evaluate pitches from 38 social entrepreneurs/innovators from around the globe. With a generous contribution from the Movember Foundation, we have almost $5.2M that we can award to these innovators for start-ups of initiatives that will promote social connectivity amongst men around the world.
Key to the design of this project is our collective desire to seed innovation. What this means is that we agreed at the outset that we would see great importance in supporting initiatives that had the potential to be disruptive and to do something out of the ordinary.
Within our panel (we were all extremely diverse), we noted how different our individual responses were to certain pitches. There were some cases where we all tended to align regarding the level of innovation and the extent to which we believed the proposed initiative could become a success and ultimately be scaled up around the globe. In other cases though, we had extremely different responses and reactions. We agreed very early on that we would allow space for our panel to argue, banter and heckle as necessary in order to get the very best thinking out in the decision making space.
I have always believed that if you don’t have opposition to the idea you have and what it is you are doing, you are probably not being all that innovative. I often tell this to my clients when they are talking about perceptions of others and how they are facing opposition which is making life difficult, from their perspective. Fortunately, the message is usually well received and I have watched firsthand the collective sigh of relief happen in a room when I normalize for teams, and even suggest there is rich value in opposition. Yes, opposition is a needful commodity.
It is my view that if you have complete consensus on critical decision points, you are probably playing it safe and ending up with a weak decision in the end. Teams that value critical thinking, varying perspectives and even welcome and celebrate internal conflict (respectful of course) are the ones that achieve much greater outcomes.
So, how innovative are you and how innovative are you willing to be? Are you playing it safe with your products and services and how your roll them out into the marketplace? Usually a propensity to be highly risk averse comes with low innovation and will likely result in a low impact outcome.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Review your current initiatives. How are you doing in terms of innovation? Are you tending towards being risk averse, or are you stepping out boldly with your offerings?
- Identify one offering, initiative or team in your company that could benefit from less risk aversion and more innovation. Once you’ve identified it, set it free and ask the developers and decision makers at all levels to take some risks, become more innovative and tap into their boldness.
- As a next step, select and implement one thing in a more innovative way than you normally would. Find a way through internal and external input to assess for how much bolder and more innovative you are being – I suggest targeting at least a 50% higher level of innovation and risk (this will involve a lot of subjectivity of course). Remember, you need to acknowledge upfront that it will be okay to fail!
- Watch and learn – take the learnings and embed them in your culture. Celebrate what you learned and see what benefits you gleaned from seeding greater innovation. Oh, and if you haven’t already noticed, watch and see how different the energy is within the team that created and the team that implemented this bolder innovation.