Doing Nothing is the Real Risk

There is an incredibly pervasive belief among people that it can be too risky to speak up, to try new things, to do something very different.  But that belief offers nothing but false security.

Doing nothing could risk everything.

If we are unwilling to fail or fall short at something, we will never innovate anything.

Individuals who are in temporary volunteer leadership roles can be more  risk-averse.   They don't want to be the ones who "screwed things up."  Individuals bring their own beliefs about risk into the work setting and the boardroom.  We would be wise to help people make their own perspectives transparent and to discuss how those beliefs relate to the level of experimentation and risk-taking that needs to occur for them to be good stewards of the organization or their particular responsibilities.

Harvard Business School professor and popular author Rosabeth Moss Kanter suggests a mix of experiments in her innovation pyramid.  It can be a useful framework for leaders looking to make strategic investments in calculated risks.  Determining the right mix depends on an organization's goals and the returns it needs to generate. something individuals should understand from their own financial planning efforts.  And this HBR blog post from Innosight's Scott Anthony highlights four low resolution ways to test possible innovations.

At some point,  every individual or organization has to put something at risk and in play in order to ensure or increase their future success.  I'd rather have lots of times at bat to achieve winning results:  strike out sometimes, get base hits other, and continue to work my way around the bases.

If the only way to win is to get a grand slam home run in the bottom of the 9th, that may be the riskiest position of them all.  So now is the time to step up to the plate and take a swing at something.  The next time you find yourself in a situation where everyone is tlaking about what can't be done, see if this question helps move you forward:


What's the most significant action and step toward innovation that we can commit to right now?