Q & Answers

What Makes Innovation so Scary?

Let’s look at something that has most of us spooked: innovation.

I think most of us can agree that change is kinda scary. In society, and as individuals, we seek out what is familiar. With change comes anxiety, and the word innovation means really big change, so we’re talking about some really big anxiety. 

“What if everyone blames me?”

Change is risky. When you change something and it doesn’t work out, people look for someone to blame. And that is the fear I hear the most often: the fear of getting blamed.

People worry about losing their jobs, their status. They worry about losing their clout within the company, amongst their coworkers, or their bosses. 

The status quo is safe. Someone else a long time ago decided what that process is going to be or what their approach to the market is going to be. If you follow that, you never have to worry about getting in trouble or getting blamed. You never have to worry about failure.

But you also never get to see your own successes. And neither does anyone else. Innovation is a big risk, but with it can come a big reward.

“Change is too expensive”

Of course there is always the fear, What if this costs too much? And, yes, innovation is going to have a price tag, but you can plan and you can plot it out. You can look at Gantt charts, schedules, etc, and you can figure out how many hours it is going to take to roll out this new innovation.

Do you know how much what you are currently doing costs you? How expensive is the lack of innovation? So which is going to cost more: making a change or staying the same? 

“What if I fail?”

You know you need a change. You know that if you stay with the status quo, in the long run, it’s just going to get more difficult. But what if we change and it doesn’t work? What if we fail?

So who is going to pull the trigger? Because no one wants to get blamed for the failure.

Yes, some of your innovations are going to fail.  But the way we mitigate those failures is by starting a little smaller so that we plan to fail on a small scale before we roll out a big innovation. We experiment more. We create A/B tests. If you put all your eggs into a 1 year basket of a new product and it fails, then that is a lot of money spent on a bad product.

So instead, take some time, get a team together, prototype it out, test it with the users. Make sure the market fits. Make sure you’re going down the right road. That takes a lot of that fear of failure away and lets you know if your big innovation is going to fall flat or if it’s going to resonate. 

So now you shouldn’t be afraid of getting blamed, because you did the research to know that it’s probably going to be successful. You shouldn’t be afraid of spending money, because your innovation is an investment that you’ve plotted out. And there is no need to be afraid of failure, because failure is part of the process: you plan to fail on a small scale so that you can be successful on a big scale.

What is really scary is STAGNATION

I can’t say this enough, another company is planning your defeat right now. They’ve got your idea; they got your innovation; they’re trying it out; they’re experimenting with it. Another company is making sure they’re going to come into your market and take control. 

Your job is to beat them to the punch. Don’t let them out innovate you.

So how can we lessen the fear?

  1. Preparation. You need to know your market
  2. Planning. What is your approach going to be?
  3. Collaboration. Work with a broad spectrum of individuals to get as many ideas as you can
  4. Communication. Amongst your team, supervisors, your higher ups. Make sure everyone knows what is going on and that they stay in the loop.
  5. Validation. Make sure the product you are building has a market fit. Make sure you’re still going down the right road
  6. Flexibility.  if you find you’re not going down the right road and the market fit isn’t right, change things up so you can get back on the right path.

Internal Teams: get buy in

Now if you’re an internal team, what you need to do is to get buy in.  Use the budget you have and the resources available to you and start creating small scale prototypes that can verify that your hypothesis is correct. This means creating prototypes, validating with user testing, and starting to collect that data. 

That data is the proof in the pudding. It is what you’re going to be able to take to your supervisors and say, I had an idea. I had an approach. I put it in front of people, and guess what? They love it. Let’s keep moving forward. Give me a bigger budget to make something bigger and better.

Supervisors: Be open and listen

Your people are going to come to you with ideas. If you make them follow the process laid out here, then you’re going to find out who is actually serious about their ideas and who is just sort of complaining about wanting to do things differently.

Then once they’re actually testing these things out, you can review that data and can validate that this is the right way to go. 

Your job is then to be a champion. As the idea works its way up the chain to your supervisor and the supervisor after that, you’re going to champion that idea and that employee because they followed a clear process and the data validates what they’re trying to accomplish.

Don’t be spooked

So yeah innovation is a little bit scary. But I think we’ve shed some light in the darkness that hopefully made it a little less scary.  We break your innovations down into manageable chunks and each step of the way, you’re validating and asking, Is this the right path? If you discover it’s not, you can back off and go the other direction. That makes it much easier for you to understand and to get a great product moving forward.

If you still have fear and trepidation about innovation, don’t worry. You have a partner here to help you out.  Rocksauce Studios helps companies build and design great products. We get things out the door and we help break through some of those walls on innovation. Maybe it’s a design workshop.  Maybe it’s helping people align on the right vision. It could be a full blown product that we help you out with. 

Give Rocksauce Studios a call at 866-981-6847 or send us an email at [email protected] We help our customers design and launch solutions that people will actually use.

Next Article: Austin Design Week: Service Design Q&A with Kati Presley

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