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Innovation Risks and Rewards

11 Apr

When it comes to imagination, people can be categorized as either dreamers or realists. Most managers, including many who studied engineering, are realists. I sometimes joke that engineers are always quick to tell you what won’t work.

On the other side are the dreamers. They have active imaginations, and they often think of unbelievably big and profitable solutions. The only problem is that their ideas tend to be foolish and unrealistic at worst, and risky at best.

The challenge for a company is to balance between the two tendencies. Too much risk is dangerous. An approach that is too conservative puts a low ceiling on growth potential. As my colleague, Col. Alok Asthana, likes to say, “If you turn your company over to the dreamers, you will go bankrupt quickly. If you turn your company over to the realists, you will go bankrupt very slowly.”

Your employees understand your attitude toward innovation and risk, even if you have never told them explicitly or made it into a policy. Sadly, employees at most organizations – 80% of US corporations according to a recent Accenture survey – say that their managers do not support entrepreneurial activity.

If you want your company to grow faster than the competition, build a culture that supports and encourages your dreamers to experiment and innovate.

Related reading: Stop Frustrating Your Innovators

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