Innovating in a Fearful Culture

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late”

Some of us hear this quote by Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and totally agree. You have no trouble putting your ego aside, because you know that you will learn from this version and the next version will be even better.  However, you are in the minority. 

While doing a recent insight mining survey, I learned people don’t want to be embarrassed. I know, not the most ground breaking learning. What is interesting is that the fear is not just from customers, but exists inside organizations. Employees do not want to share their ideas within their organizations. This negatively impacts collaboration. Not good considering collaboration is an indicating metric for an organization’s pipeline.

Eureka ideas come from exploring stimulus, leveraging diversity and driving our fear. Fear is so high in most workplaces that it is preventing diversity. We are afraid to share our ideas and especially afraid to share them with people who think differently than us. This is not a recipe for breakthrough innovation. 

There is a growing interest in a space or tool where someone can work privately on their idea before sharing with the entire organization. This is exciting, because it shows that even in fearful organizations there are people who want to innovate. My goal is to enable these people, so they can move their ideas forward without fear. 

While it is important to be able to work an idea without fear, I think we can tackle this issue from the other side too. That means we need to suspend our judgements when someone else is brave enough to share their ideas with us. Before you say no, remember this is just one version of many more to come.