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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Risk Aversion As The Antidote To Innovation

I wrote sometime back, Static productivity measures can be misleading & what may really count for enterprises is the ability to sustain and amplify productivity improvements through innovative products, process improvements or new business models. Unfortunatley most enterprises track static productivity measures so passionately and feel proud about it when lead indicators can present a dismal picture
. A point that John Hagel emphasises in a related context. As he sees it, the rise of China and India can largely be traced to some very distinctive innovation being pioneered by companies in these regions.He points out that in the near-term, there’s a significant opportunity for all companies to harness these innovative management techniques to deliver more value to their customers.Kathy Sierra writes, risk-aversionis the single biggest innovation killer, and of course it's not just Microsoft that's been infected ( It may be noted Google is seen to be the opposite and hence the glam image). Taking risks is... risky. But if not taking risks is even riskier. Sure the big companies have it bad and may fall the hardest if they don't get a clue and a cure, but none of us is immune. You see the safe path everywhere. Her memo to Microsoft: you've got people doing some amazing things over there. If you could just get the hell out of the way, the world might change for the better.
She offers some practical advice for individual nodes inside organisations:
- Keep pushing the boundaries strategically, one-by-one
If management layers are seen as conservative branches and leaf nodes are experimental individual contributors – the call is irrespective of being a leaf or a branch, pick your battles carefully, one poke at a time. Better to live another day to keep fighting the good fight then, say, being fired for trying to do it all at once.
- Add one more skill to our career advice for young people: be willing to take risks! Perhaps more importantly, be willing to tolerate (and perhaps even encourage) risk-taking in those who are managed by you. A good read indeed - so much of insight embedded in simple words.

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