Which person who ever invented something did not risk something at the same time? If innovation is one side of a coin risk is the other. And still, when asked what the most common reason is for not following through with an innovative idea, employees and even innovation manager answer that they are too afraid of making mistakes and fail. In short, their corporate culture does not support risk-taking and there is little support when making decisions that are not one hundred percent waterproof. So while everyone agrees that a risk-friendly culture has a lot of benefits, very few companies have actually internalized such a culture. So where is the problem?
The answer seems to be an emotional one. Employees are too afraid of making mistakes. So how does a company overcome that fear? There has to be a shift in what is not only accepted but encouraged and it has to be communicated loud and clear for everybody in the company to understand.
Here are steps that leaders can undertake to encourage their employees to be more bold.
Leaders have to be transparent and consistent with the consequences of failures. If your employees know that they have nothing to fear when experimenting with different approaches, they will experiment. Your reactions have to be constant and predictable.
Draw the big picture!
Employees need to understand the direction of where the company is going and most importantly they need to understand their role in reaching those objectives. Once they have established a sense of ownership and feel like their actions are having an impact, they will be eager to succeed in their job.
Employees need to feel free, safe and supported to try out new things.
Lead by example!
It is not enough to just tell your employees that risk-taking is encouraged. It has to be lived by the executives, most and foremost. When employees see their own supervisors stepping out of their comfort zones, trying new things, and taking risks for the benefit of the company, it sends a strong message about what is valued.
What good does risk-taking serve?
Innovation is not the only positive outcome if you cultivate a climate where risk-taking is encouraged.
Solving problems in general will become a much quicker process. Because employees are not afraid of trying out different things, they will quickly move forward when realizing that one approach did not work, speeding up the process of finding creative solutions.
Another effect of risk-taking?
Increase in employee satisfaction. Your employees will quickly feel ownership and their importance for the company which subsequently will slow down job turnover. With fearless employees you win twice. You will increase profit and you will decrease your costs for replacing employees.
Let your employees work the way they like to work and encourage experimentation and creative fearlessness.
How does all that connect to an open innovation culture in general? The idea is to create a working culture that is generally well prepared for competing global markets. If you’re employees open up to make mistakes, ask more questions, be open for discussion, make their own decisions and have a feeling of ownership, they will be more open towards other people’s ideas and will also be more open to share theirs.