Barriers for innovation

whitewaterWhen building organizational capacity, our Minnesota State leadership competencies include these two behaviors:

  • Engages and supports appropriate risk-taking
  • Identifies and removes barriers to innovation

According to a white paper from IBM, these two are closely linked. In fact, the paper describes risk avoidance as one of the top five barriers to innovation. Since higher ed is not known for its capacity for risks, this is important to us as leaders. Just like the team in the photo above, sometimes we need to navigate into rough waters in order to get where we want to go.

Here are some tips for creating an environment that encourages appropriate risk-taking:

  • Use appropriate techniques to measure the risks of an activity, and also look at the risks of not taking action
  • Anticipate objections and prepare logical responses, as well as stories that provide a compelling context
  • Pilot test activities and take small-scale steps before large-scale implementation
  • Take others’ concerns seriously by identifying and mitigating risks

The authors say that “a clear-eyed view of risks balanced against benefits can create an environment where innovation is nurtured rather than killed.” What strategies do you use to support the risks needed to navigate rough waters?

Dee Anne Bonebright


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