It is very common that innovation efforts are squandered because the people involved, frankly, should not be there in the first place. Of the projects you’ve been a part of, how many had people that were willing to roll with the punches and figure out a path forward? I assume you can count them with one hand.
Innovation is not easy, it takes risk and requires a team of people who are comfortable operating in the unknown; people who get excited about starting from scratch and having a go at it; people who are willing to work through challenges that have no precedent.
It’s safe to say that you will not innovate if your team doesn’t have people who will roll with the punches and “figure it out”. These are the types of people who are attracted to bold ideas that have the potential to change the world; they are also the types that attract more and better talent.
In the realm of innovation, the common innovator’s motto is: there is always a better way.
To this I propose we add “and we’ll figure it out” to that statement: There is always a better way and we’ll figure it out.
That last statement signals what a true innovator does: work through the challenges and find a way forward.
If you operate in a non-innovative organization, saying the words “we’ll figure it out” will likely get you fired. Why? Because in non-innovative organizations the common response to new ideas is “prove it”; the two words that kill innovation. In true innovative organizations risk-taking is encouraged and rewarded, because there is an implicit understanding that ideas go through a process of trial and error and the team needs time to figure it out.
Remember, innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process. And as stated above, people who have the “we’ll figure it out” attitude are a dime a dozen. But if you can attract them, you’ll have great firepower.
With that said, as an entrepreneur you must be aware that the first 10 – 15 people you hire will be the ones that carry the culture forward; so make it count.
Bottom line: Without great leadership there is no innovation. Leadership oftentimes means guiding your team through ambiguity. Are you up to the challenge?