There is no such thing as “risk-free” innovation. But without taking some much needed risks, we as a society would be forever stunted and static rather than curious and dynamic. Learn more about the impact of risk averse culture in the 5 Key Elements for a Successful Innovation Program.
Let’s take the Wright Brothers, for example, and their discovery of flight. Orville and Wilbur experienced their share of setbacks, from one brother (Orville) being expelled from elementary school in his earlier days to aircraft after aircraft plummeting from the sky and to the earth. Refusing to give up on a good idea, however, the brothers continued to build upon their aeronautical knowledge and eventually invented the groundbreaking three-axis control which gave pilots greater control and steering. This method still remains as being the standard in controlling all kinds of fixed-wing aircraft.
The success of the Wright Brothers is not a once in a lifetime story, either. A more modern day example of successful (although initially risky) innovation is that of Uber, a transportation company that, through more efficient processes (that is heavily reliant on a free iPhone loaded with a car dispatch app) and employee loyalty programs (employees are offered enticing discounts on new cars amongst other perks), is dominating the taxi and personal transportation industry in each city it currently operates in. Through the Uber app, passengers can book a ride by smartphone and then track the transportation vehicle on a map as it nears their location. Once the ride’s over, the service compensates the driver from a customer’s pre-loaded credit card. The passenger arrives on time, and the driver is never stiffed pay or a tip.
Not Every Risk Is Worth It
While we often hear these success stories about innovation, what we often do not hear about are its failures—especially where these failures may hit us the hardest, such as in our professional lives.
For instance, did you know that:
- 8-9/10 of Venture Capitals (VC’s) essentially fail (Harvard Business School, 2012)
- 70-75 percent of change management efforts fail (Gartner, 2012)
- 37 percent of projects fail (PM Solutions, 2011)
Risk runs rampant in business, especially when it comes to innovation. The definition of innovation itself implies risk: the value of the innovation comes from the execution of a new idea, with the key word being “new.” New ideas are things that have never before existed, meaning there is no previous data available to help prove its worth. Yes, other similar data may exist which can help us make loose predictions or models, but it is impossible to take everything into consideration when trying new things or implementing new ideas. As a result, some risks will inevitably result in failure.
Reducing Your Risk of “Taking a Chance”
Here is the good news: you can minimize the risk of investing in wrong ideas. At SoapBox, we believe in the power of communal support. On several occasions we have witnessed organizations pursue ideas that were reinforced by the support of the community. By asking a community of individuals to vote on plans, organizations can make better informed decisions about their existing and future plans and strategies.
But the value in community goes beyond feedback and reinforcement. Your community is what will give you the insight to stay a step ahead rather than fall back. Saint Elizabeth proves to be a great example of community in action, with the insight provided by frontline staff leading to a better flow of information between frontline employees, management, and senior leadership, which ultimately lead to better strategic organizational planning.
As human beings, we are conditioned to fear the unknown. But what many fail to acknowledge is that we are built to embrace the unknown as well. With just the right blend of logic, suspicion, community, and information, any organization can turn what may seem like a “risky choice” into an innovative game-changing idea.
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Jacqueline Zhou is the innovation expert at SoapBox Innovations, a SaaS innovation management company. An avid believer in tapping into the collective genius of communities, she shares her innovation insights on the SoapBox Innovations blog and @SoapBoxHQ