Have you ever had a good idea for your company, but felt if you raised it to your management, they might scoff at the idea – or worse, tell you to mind your own business? Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to innovation in any company. Fear of ridicule. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of being told that your idea is stupid.
Too many companies unfortunately promote an environment that embraces this fear. It starts with managers who fear that their direct reports might actually outshine them with a creative or ingenious idea. These fearful managers exist at the lowest levels of the company, at the highest levels of the company, and every level in between.
There are also structural factors that promote innovation-killing fear in a company. “We’re the Office of Corporate Strategy.” “We’re the Office of Innovation.” “We’re the Office of the CEO.” Or, “We’re the number one product group for the company.” “You stick to your day job, and let us worry about the company’s new ideas or innovation strategy.” Sound familiar?
These are also the same companies which many times find themselves slipping from first, to second, to way back in the pack, while younger, hungrier, and more fearless companies eat their lunch.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Start by leveraging the laws of statistics. Challenge every single person in your organization to stretch his or her thinking. Promote a culture that holds to this axiom: no idea is a bad idea. Of course, you’ll need to point out that only a few ideas will be worthy of pursuing. Yet, your odds of finding a pearl are increased as you open up a larger number of oyster shells.
Try it. You have nothing to fear, but fear itself.