What is the success rate of the number of ideas you test? Is it as high as 80-90%? What’s wrong with this, you might ask?
A high success rate indicates that you may be playing it safe by testing only conservative sure-fire ideas. As you can imagine, this severely limits the range of ideas you can test.
To create a highly innovative team, you must be willing to test unconventional ideas, even when you think they might fail.
This requires a shift in mindset from “It won’t work” to “I’m not sure if it will work or not, but let’s try it anyway”.
Although this shift in mindset will allow you to test a much wider range of ideas, from valuable improvements to breakthrough strategies, it will also result in a much higher failure rate.
As a manager seeking to create a highly innovative team, you need to be willing to accept a failure rate of ideas of 50% or more.
This makes it critically important that you always find ways to reduce the risk of testing new ideas. In this way, when ideas fail, they won’t create too many problems.
Taking it personally
When your team suggests new and unconventional ideas, do you first focus on the benefits or the problems?
If you focus first on the problems, there is a good chance you are killing your team’s motivation for suggesting great ideas.
Think back to the times when your ideas were rejected with knee-jerk comments such as, “It can’t be done”, “It costs too much”, “It’s never been done before”, or “We did it last year, but it didn’t work”.
How did it feel? Even though ideas are just ideas, we tend to take rejection personally.
Why go to all the time and trouble of coming up with ideas only to have them cast aside? If you keep getting knocked back, you are going to give up.
What's the solution?
The trick is to always focus on the benefits first, regardless of how impractical the idea might seem. As one manager commented to me: “All ideas have benefits, that’s why they are ideas."
This requires a shift in mindset from “How bad are the problems?” to “How good are the benefits?”
Once you have established the value of the benefits, you can then look at the problems. The key point here is, the more valuable the idea, the greater the incentive there is to find a way to solve the problems with it.
Minimise the risk
It is absolutely essential that you minimise the risk of testing new ideas. Otherwise, some of them may crash and burn with serious consequences. But how do you do this?
The question you need to ask is, “If the idea fails, what is the worst-case scenario?” And if this creates serious problems, then how can you reduce these problems to acceptable levels?
Try not to focus on just one or two potentially serious problems while overlooking others. A good idea is to make a list of all potentially serious problems, then devise a way to reduce the level of risk of each item.
Minimising risk is a balance. You need to accept a certain level of risk but you don’t want to run into a situation where the problems are so big that they knock you over.
It is also important that you minimise the risk for ideas you are absolutely certain will succeed. The danger is you skip this important step and take on more risk than necessary. It will then be only a matter of time before one of these ideas blows up, creating serious problems.
Always ask, “If the idea fails, what is the worst-case scenario?” And if this creates serious problems, then how can you reduce these problems to acceptable levels?