Develop the right innovation attitude

In Summary

•Many leaders would rather shutdown an innovative idea to protect their ego.

Image: FILE

Some years ago, I introduced: The Innovation Cycle. It is a model that I designed to help leaders and entrepreneurs understand the innovation process and how to walk through it. The model broke down how the process works and the stages that leaders and their teams go through to make innovation happen. It is a practical tool that changes the innovation narrative. And it shows business leaders the angles that are not easily perceived or understood.

One of the four elements of the innovation cycle is vulnerability. In our excitement about innovation, it’s easy to forget that creating the new puts us in a vulnerable state. This is an emotional reality and it’s one reason new ideas are fought; people are generally uncomfortable. Innovation puts vulnerability in your face. Your ego is challenged in the process.

Now, that’s one issue: ego. Many leaders would rather shutdown an innovative idea to protect their ego. They find it difficult dealing with the vulnerability that comes with the innovation process. It means that they have to admit that they don’t know and submit to learning something new. Ego and the insecurities that come with it form the root of opposition to innovation. And therein lies the wrong attitude. Where this attitude exists, innovation is unlikely.

In the innovation narrative, ego is the enemy. You cannot preserve your ego and innovate. It won’t work because to birth the new, the old may have to give way. Also, the birthing process would stretch you beyond your limits and eventually drag you away from your comfort zone. Unfortunately, your ego doesn’t like this process and will fight back.

So how do you develop the right innovation attitude? It’s simple: be at peace with feeling stupid.

The innovation process will make you feel stupid and that’s OK. It comes with the territory; it’s part of the process. You need to come to terms with this fact and embrace it. This would give you the right mental poise to power through the innovation process. Settle it: you will definitely feel stupid trying to innovate. There are days when you will wonder if what you’re doing makes any sense. And you will feel so stupid.

True innovators are at peace with feeling stupid. Hence, they are not afraid to try new things and fail. They’ve been liberated from the chains of reputation or trying to protect an image. They understand that innovation is a messy process and feeling stupid eventually pays.