Stop Frustrating Your Innovators

study among US companies shows that employees of corporations are eager to be entrepreneurial. More than half of those surveyed (52 percent) have pursued an entrepreneurial idea within their company. But what they lack, is support from their management. Only one in five employees feels supported by their management to be entrepreneurial.

“While nearly half the employees (49 percent) say management support is very important to the generation of entrepreneurial ideas, only one in five (20 percent) believe their company delivers it. And although 42 percent consider tolerance of failure from management is very important, only one in every eight employees thinks their company is good at that”.

Senior management is reluctant to support innovation, not only in the US I have noticed. This is a big frustration for most innovative employees. As companies grow, the need for controlling risks grows along with it, as there is more to lose. In big corporations controlling risks even is a day-to-day job for specialized risk managers. They advise organizations on any potential risks to the profitability or existence of the company. They identify and assess threats, put plans in place for if things go wrong and decide how to avoid, reduce or transfer risks.

Once managing risks gets institutionalized like this it becomes “a pain in the ass” for the innovators within the same company. They get buried under all kinds of forms and procedures required to gain bureaucratic approval which is complex and time-consuming. Do not be surprised when in big corporations there are more people on the payroll trying to stop new initiatives than trying to launch them.

A major mind shift needed in big corporations to become entrepreneurial is from managing risks to seeing possibilities for growth. Instead of asking ‘What’s the risk here?’ people should ask themselves ‘What is the opportunity here?’. For bigger companies this will be quite a task indeed. A change in mind shift in a corporation always starts at the top otherwise it doesn’t stand a chance. I plea to appoint a ‘Chief Possibilities Officer’ in the board or management team of big conservative organizations. Among his – or her role would be:

  • Initiating a strategy where change, innovation and business development plays a key role.
  • Getting and keeping “new initiatives” on the boards’ agenda.
  • Supporting real innovators within the organization with resources and personal support in their daily practice.

A Chief Possibilities Officer will free your innovators.

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Gijs van WulfenGijs van Wulfen helps organizations to structure the chaotic start of innovation as author, speaker and facilitator. He is the founder of the FORTH innovation method and author of the innovation bestseller The Innovation Expedition. He was chosen by LinkedIn as one of their first 150 Influencers. Follow Gijs @gijsvanwulfen

Gijs van Wulfen




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