Innovation Requires a Safe Place to Fail

Your Team Won’t Risk Failure if They Feel They Must Succeed

Innovation is a big buzzword today. People are saying how important it is to innovate. But innovation doesn’t just happen. It has to be properly cultivated. Because innovation requires a safe place to fail.

Innovation Requires a Safe Place to Fail

Today employers demand innovation of their employees. But they aren’t providing what’s necessary to innovate. C.S. Lewis said in The Abolition of Man, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function.” People feel forced to innovate but they aren’t given what they need to be innovative. Your team won’t risk failure if they feel they must succeed.

If you want to create a truly innovative workplace, then you must make sure that you have built your culture on three successive layers. Only with these three layers in place can you produce a safe place capable of producing innovation.


1. Trust


The first layer to put in place is trust. Your team needs to know that they can trust you. In order to create a culture ripe for innovation, they have to know that you have their backs if things don’t go right.

You can’t just tell your team that they can trust you. That will sound like the stereotypical used car salesman. Trust is not fostered by what you say as much as by what you do.

Trust is not fostered by what you say as much as by what you do.


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Trust is based on past situations. It is based on your demonstrated ability to lead your team in previous situations. You have to create a track record in order for your team to be willing to trust you in new situations. And your team will not trust you until they know that you are willing to trust them—even if they fail in the process of doing something new.


2. Faith


The second layer to put in place is faith. Your team needs to have faith in you as a leader and in the culture that you have created. They have to know that you will respond when things don’t go right like you did in the past.

You can’t be fickle as a leader. You have to be the same person all the time. And you can’t be one way one day and another way the next. That will not inspire faith in you. That will create a fear of you.

Faith is activated in the present moment. It is activated by taking a risk based on a previous record of trust built up over time. And it is activated by believing that similar actions as those done in the past will produce similar outcomes in present.


3. Hope


The final layer you need to put in place is hope. Your team needs to have hope for the future. Hope is forward looking based on how things have gone previously. But hope is activated only when there are grounds for hope.

People will not have hope for the future if they have been beaten down. That will only put them in survival mode. They will not be willing to risk if they feel they will be called out for failure. You can’t create a hopeful culture when people are fearful.

You can’t create a hopeful culture when people are fearful.


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Hope is a confident expectation that something good is going to happen. And hope is contagious. When you have built a culture of trust—so that people will have faith in your abilities as a leader—then you can create an environment of hope. And people will feel it’s a safe place to fail.


Key Takeaway


When you have created a safe environment where hope flourishes, then innovation will flourish too. Hope will reproduce itself in the culture because it will feed off itself. People will be willing to take risks and fail when they are hopeful. But it all starts with you as a leader creating a culture that encourages trust and faith in you as the leader.


Dear Boss

Did you know that I

* Perform organizational culture assessments,
* Coach leaders how best to lead their teams, and
* Train teams how to best perform like a team?

To find out more, check out my first bestseller, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew.

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