New ideas inherently carry risk. And there’s often friction between the risk profiles of our ideas and the risk tolerances of our organization. How we navigate and manage that friction impacts what, if anything, makes it through the gauntlet of the innovation process.
Risk tolerance can vary across different parts of the business. Ultimately we need all of these different points of view to sense-check ideas as we collectively bring them to life. All of those different perspectives can make an idea stronger. But silo-thinking often gets in the way.
Years ago, I saw innovation legend Doug Hall lead a workshop on managing risks. He had a few words of advice that stuck with me:
“Meaningfully unique ideas spark fear. Fear causes shut down. The secret to reducing fear is to make the unknown known. We need to turn killer issues into manageable threats”
Here are a few related ideas that I’ve drawn over the years.
“Compromise with Legal” June 2011
“Safe is Risky” July 2014
“Lifecycle of Innovation” November 2002
(Thanks to my old colleague Jon Overlie who first inspired a glass half full cartoon idea years ago).
3 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Ori Pomerantz says
A big part of this is the agency issue. The organization needs innovation to survive. But the head of legal, Mr. S. H. Yster (Esp.), does not get credit if the innovation succeeds. He does get the blame when the company is sued. So he is motivated to squash innovation, as long as it doesn’t degrade the company to the point it can’t afford his services anymore.
That’s one of the reasons startups can do better. Everybody in a startup knows that if the company loses it will lose big and they’ll need to find other jobs.
Richard Warland says
Legal and Risk Management are the dead weights on business innovation. I don’t blame them… for just the reason you describe – BUT there needs to be a strong CEO who is prepared to make the final decision.
While I am the owner of a small online business (we’re talking micro compared to the companies you work with) I just wanted to tell you how much your work and words help and inspire even the littlest guy. Business is Business no matter the size, and I contend with all of the things you so humorously and aptly draw and talk about every day. What makes you a blessing to the small entrepreneur like myself is the fact that your work speaks to each of the many hats the little guy must put on in a day.
I just wanted you to know that you are appreciated. It isn’t going to help your retirement nest egg any, but it may just be the thing you needed to hear today.
Thank you for sharing your insight and talent.