By Alan Graner
There is a major downside to innovation: it’s scary.
Scary in the sense of creating a chaotic environment. Scary in the sense of ideas that don’t conform to accepted procedures. Scary in the sense we may be forced out of our comfortable ruts to think in new ways.
Even scarier…what if the innovation doesn’t work? What if we fail? What if people laugh at us? What if we lose your job?
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that, given the choice between safe conformity and risky innovation, most people prefer to remain comfortable. To maintain the status quo, they must stomp creative ideas into the ground.
Most companies want progress without change
We constantly read in business articles and books that innovation is the best guarantee a company has of continued prosperity and industry dominance.
As management guru Peter Drucker wrote: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation….Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”
Therefore, you’d think a company would create a culture that fostered innovation, but few do—even companies in so-called creative industries like advertising, design, architecture and music.
Oh, they may say they foster new ideas and new ways of doing things
But in reality, too many company cultures have consciously or unconsciously developed into spirit killers to ensure the status quo remains unchanged. They inanely repeat phrases guaranteed to destroy innovation, such as:
- It can’t be done.
- Now is not the right time.
- Don’t mess with something that works.
- It isn’t in the budget.
- We’ve always done it that way.
How to you nurture innovation?
If you want to encourage innovation, you must create a company environment that fosters it.
You must eliminate fear of failure. As Edison proved, most innovations leave a trail heavily littered with failure.
You must eliminate unfair criticism. As TV designer Christopher Lowell put it, “Where there is fear, there is no creativity.”
Albert Einstein famously stated, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Why on earth would anybody want to destroy such a powerful and fragile thing?
How do you encourage innovation?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business marketing content and distribution firm. For content that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.