3 Ways to Build a Prudent Risk Taking Culture

3 Ways to Build a Prudent Risk Taking Culture

What exactly is a “risk-taking culture?” Creativity is a fragile concept, and innovation will quickly disappear within your company if you drive the wrong behaviours, or neglect the right ones.

Although any level of innovation process management is often seen by creative types as the enemy of their production, they’re not correct in all respects. They definitely need as much room to stretch their innovative muscle as possible, but there are some ways that managers can be effective leaders without taking away any of their space. Some of it seems counterintuitive, and some of it seems obvious, but it’s all worth discussion.

Be Engaging as a Manager

This doesn’t mean being a charming and witty conversationalist, although that would probably benefit you also. What this means in this context is being a leader that both challenges and motivates creative work. Mark Addiks, the Chief Marketing Officer at General Mills, points out employees are plugged in on a very sensitive level to the attitudes and responses of their superiors. A positive managerial aOtude goes a long way, and Russ Wilcox of E Ink agrees with him.

On a similar note, neglecting to motivate and encourage division members does just as much harm as taking these actions does well. Shikhar Ghash, the CEO of Verilytics, a software company, claims that when those in innovation process management have the wrong attitude, namely of neglecting peoples’ ideas or refusing to give proper credit, almost immediately any hope in the process for innovation is stamped out. In other words, if inventors and developers aren’t motivated by the hope of a positive reaction, they also won’t be motivated to take risks and, if they do take risks, they won’t be doing so wisely because they won’t care if anyone’s watching.

Set up Specific Forums for Innovation

Some companies have been remarkably successful creating a risk-taking culture in specific, targeted ways, rather than trying to overturn the entire company into a bold, brash, risk-taking machine. Companies like IBM and Malaysia Airlines set up specific laboratories or workshops for short period of times that are focused on innovation. In this way, they astutely call for remarkable levels of innovation without upsetting or risking the entire business process model.

Other companies, like Porsche, invest in specific programs, such as internships, dedicated to the production of new ideas. In Porsche’s case, although they’d love a million new ideas to come out of their forums every year, it’s low-risk because it’s an internship program, and they won’t be hiring most of the engineers anyway.

Technology giant Samsung has also perfected this idea. They set up Design Centres, Innovation Design Labs, and they send people out on internships to other industries. Limiting the unlimited process of innovation to these isolated groups minimizes risk to other departments while maximizing the creative culture within their walls.

Lastly, 3M creates a risk-taking culture by touting a “hands off” or “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach in the early stages of development. Even in times where they need methods more closely linked to management, they create small, cross-functional teams as part of a Lead User System. These teams run along the mindset of embracing ambiguity and focus on areas where pre-existing knowledge is practically non-existent. These isolated groups are drenched in a culture of creativity and invention.

Learn from Failure

On a final note, welcome the idea that failure is just plain going to happen. The managerial responses that tend to be the strongest are those that occur in reaction to failure. This, in turn, nurtures a “failure fearing” culture as opposed to a risk-taking one. If instead, you can encourage people to experiment and learn, then people will be more willing to take risks. When the inevitable failure does occur, instead of taking on a punishing mentality, focus on problem-solving, the organization’s overall performance, and how the team can learn. This will motivate people to speak up, address concerns, and ask questions.

The above process innovation examples show how a proper risk-taking culture will encourage people to think outside the box in a sensible way. Of course, if someone at your technology company is trying to tell you that there’s money in their idea for developing a cell phone for pets, they may be thinking too outside the box…or at least not in the right area outside the box. But truly, taking a risk is a wise move for the process of innovation, and developing a culture that will nurture your employees and foster such creativity is paramount to the success of the 21st-century business


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