There’s lots of talk about the importance of being innovative in business. Innovation is necessary for businesses to not only survive but grow and be sustainable in the long term.

Innovation leads to better products, processes, reusing resources and waste and improving the competitive advantage of the business.

Innovation is a hot topic especially in Australia, since the federal government announced its National Innovation & Science Agenda which focuses on “helping innovators get funding, assisting research and business to work together, and ensuring our kids learn the skills of the future.”

It’s a great concept which works on the belief that the innovators are out there and a lack of financial resources, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) skills and opportunities to collaborate with other businesses is holding them back.
Even though the government’s agenda is very welcome I believe there are 3 other more pressing obstacles that are getting in the way for businesses to be innovative.

Here’s my thoughts about what I believe is one of the biggest obstacles to being an innovative organisation. I’ll describe the other 2 obstacles during a followup post.

1. Fear of Failure

Having access to new information and technology is great but what’s the point if you’re not using it and applying it to the business?

The fear of failure exists in most human beings. We are not inherently drawn to failure. We don’t like it but its a necessary path of being truly creative.

If you really want to have innovation in your organisation’s culture than you need to go in knowing that you’re going to fail. Its part of the process of discovering success.

The fear of not trying needs to be greater than the fear of failure for anyone to be innovative.

So we need to re-frame failure as a part of the innovative process where we learn and grow. That failure is ok.

Its a common thread for most stories of successful innovators. Before having the success that made them famous they failed a lot. However its what they did with the failures that increased their likelihood of success. Instead of giving up they failed forward They used failure as a lesson to apply in the next attempt.

They had the confidence in themselves that they could come up with a better idea. They kept broadening their search, finding new people to talk to and collaborate with, they kept learning knowing that the next idea was just around the corner and they believed that they would find it.

For this to happen failure needs to not only be accepted by ourselves but also our team. It needs to be supported by our team which can only happen in an environment of trust and acceptance. The team needs to view each other as valuable contributors and be willing to workshop any ideas.

Failure needs to feel “safe”. Accepted by the team, the leader and the organisation. A true learning organisation has learning & development at the core of its culture. So their people are constantly learning through a variety of different sources both formal and informal and applying that learning at work.

We need to get comfortable with uncertainty and allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to express our ideas to others for judgement.

People regret those things they didn’t do. Not the things that provided growth and learning and ultimately became part of a bigger success story.

“We regret the in-actions, not the actions” – Adam Grant

(Adam Grant is the author of Originals: How non-conformists rule the world)

Real failure is trying something once, then throwing your hands up in the air saying “I give up – I’m not trying it again”
You can fail at growing your business by trying out a new idea or you can fail at growing your business by not doing anything different.

So although your next idea may not work, having positive people around you that encourage and support real learning and innovation can help give you the confidence you need to keep trying.

What do you regret? If you could go back what would you change?


Contact us if you would like to challenge your team’s innovative mindset