Innovation & Management

Managers are, as a rule, not employed to simply maintain the status quo but are expected to be innovative and creative. Whilst managers who generate lots of new ideas are Thinking & Problem Solvingoften viewed by the senior management team as “better” than those who do not, such managers are often less trusted by the people they manage than their more cautious colleagues. This creates a problem for the innovative manager.

Researchers at Cornell University  found that we often have an unconscious bias against implementing new ideas because of the increased uncertainty implementing new ideas can create. We like, it seems, to have a degree of certainty about the outcomes of our actions and unless we are absolutely certain that the innovative idea will work, we fear that the change may lead to us personally failing. Innovation is therefore seen as a threat because it challenges the way we have done things, and alters the certainty we have of getting the outcomes that these traditional actions achieved.

As a result, whilst we may theoretically view a manager’s new ideas as good, we are often quite reluctant to put them into practice. Instead we dilute their new idea, often to the extent that it is no longer new, nor does it solve the original issue or achieve the original goal.

For the innovative manager this creates a problem: how can you ensure your new ideas are implemented and not diluted? For new ideas to be adopted, you need to do at least two things:

1. Make the New Idea Real and Believable
The more detailed and accessible you can make your innovative idea to those who are going to implement it, the easier it is for them to understand how to achieve it. Essentially you are decreasing the risk by helping them to see that the idea will work. The key to this is genuine two way communication that allows people to express their concerns and for these to be discussed in a constructive manner.

2. Help People in Your Team Take Risks
Helping your team members be more comfortable with taking risks is a more challenging task. Some people are naturally more risk averse than others. Managers can help the people in their team to take risks by ensuring that they have the right planning skills and that they support people during the implementation stage of the changes their innovative idea creates. This means that when team members try something new the manager does not play the "blame game" if it does not go 100% right first time.