The Art of Bold Innovation

How and why do you decide to take risks?  Do you use research and a hunch, combine desperation with action, weigh freedom versus control?  I
February 02, 2010

How and why do you decide to take risks?  Do you use research and a hunch, combine desperation with action, weigh freedom versus control?  I have always felt that growth and profits come from some form of calculated risk.

The essence of making revolutionary changes is taking risks.  Bold risks produce bold innovation; they launch new products, services, and companies; they improve workplace conditions for employees; and they may even end up changing the world.  With risk can come great failure and losses, yet only risk produces progress and profits.  And technology is allowing companies to test new ideas at breakneck speed, which means you can tailor products and services to better meet the needs of the global marketplace and you can get them to market faster than ever before.

Are you using your resources to promote, execute and reward smart risk-taking at your company? Here are 10 questions to help guide you and your organization toward bold innovation.

  1. What are you doing to create a risk-oriented atmosphere at your company that leads to bold innovation?  It is vital that you inspire your people to develop new ideas, for they are the lifeblood of a growing operation.
  2. Have you identified the risk-takers within your organization — people who see clearly how your business can profit in ways that other people haven’t yet seen  — and are you nurturing them to be successful on the first, second and third try?  Let the baby Einsteins know that they can test, fail, test, fail, and learn something that enables you to develop a plan that will work.
  3. Are you fostering a collaborative environment?  Growth starts with you and ends with your team.  Diversify your team, foster knowledge sharing, demand different perspectives and mobilize your people to get in sync with you on the quest for bold innovation. Then, mix it all up and repeat.
  4. Are you driving for change and the creation of something new for future advantage?  The goal is to have a “eureka” moment that leads to a breakthrough that changes the company and even the industry forever.
  5. How are you providing direction, excitement and an environment for people to excel, achieve and take risks?  Investing in research, forming strategic alliances and recruiting the best of the best in human capital are all signs of corporate vitality that promotes bold innovation.  Take a proactive stance on trying new things and don’t just look in the same old places.  Lift that rock, open that door, dive into the pool to unearth new ways of doing efficient business.
  6. How much freedom are you giving your people to apply their own skills, creativity and knowledge in a way that benefits themselves and the company?  Simply put: Give up some control.  Let ’er rip!  Solicit, encourage and welcome new ideas.
  7. Have you communicated the importance of taking the initiative to make things happen at your firm, even at the risk of someone screwing up?  Remember, there’s just as much risk involved in doing nothing as there is in doing something!
  8. What’s your mantra?  If you don’t have one, create one. Ours is:  “We don’t work on any projects that aren’t global in nature and that we can’t get enthusiastic about!”
  9. How do you inspire creative work that leads to bold innovation while adhering to concrete business goals? Put a policy in place that reserves time for people — from the maintenance crew to mailroom clerks to top executives — to explore their own ideas.  Establish a department or division for the purpose of pushing ideas through a pipeline of either “go” or “no go.”  Offer cash rewards for bold solutions.
  10. Does your visionary leadership style create new experiences and opportunities while leading your team to the forefront in your industry?  Look in the mirror.  Would you want to take bold innovation orders from yourself?  Develop new ways of thinking and looking at the world — which extends well beyond your typical comfort zone — to encourage wide open minds in all your people.

Don’t reinforce the old ways of doing things.  Continuing to take risks is an important part of achieving bold innovation.  It also enables you to be the first in something.  What are you first in?  If you are not first in something today, will it be tomorrow?

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About the Author:  Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder of GlobeTrade (a Global TradeSource, Ltd. company).  She also is the creator of “Borderbuster,” an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog, all highly regarded for their global small business coverage.  You can reach Laurel at or follow her on Twitter @LaurelDelaney.