I continue to scratch my head on this one. The internet is rife with books, studies and opinion pieces as to why innovators and creative thinkers are central to business success. One need look no further than the landslide of commentary about Steve Jobs. Visionary, risk taker, game changer, etc. So why is it then that many companies, particularly in the current economic climate, seem to shy away from leaders who aren’t risk averse?
Uncertainty is the Incubator of Innovation.
Business innovation means learning to live with uncertainty. Innovation requires uncertainty. It is this uncertainty that leads to variation in ideas, and this variety is what is necessary for finding the best answer to whatever problem is needing to be solved.
In Jonathan Fields book “Uncertainty” he argues that one can only do innovative and creative work by learning to live with and actually embrace uncertainty. Like Jobs, creative leaders have developed frameworks that let themselves repeatedly fly with fear instead of crashing and burning from it. In fact, Tim Kastelle, of the Innovation Leadership Network argues that the single most important management skill for a manager to have is a tolerance for ambiguity.
Having witnessed a number of corporate re-organizations and in hearing from so many displaced leaders I have to give my head a shake. Why is it that so many organizations, in response to challenging markets or circumstances, seem to gravitate towards leaders who are risk averse? Why do so many organizations replace innovative leaders with those who won’t rock the boat when in fact bold solutions are required?
In business, as in art and life, creating on a class-leading level demands daring action and leaps of faith in the face of uncertainty. If the fear of uncertainty takes over in your company, creativity is gutted and innovation is stifled. It can keep you and your team from taking the risks necessary to craft that brilliant product or offering. And it can bring your company or organization to a grinding halt.
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