• Eleni Jacobs

Innovation in crisis times: the impact of psychological safety

Radical innovation is threatened, even if it's more crucial now than ever. Our whole reality, including the needs of the market will change drastically in the years to come and businesses face a big challenge in keeping up with this. How can we prepare and what is needed to make your organisation innovation proof? Innovation in the Covid19 crisis Where in the midst of facing one of the biggest crises in history. This creates fear, which is a natural reaction to all the uncertainty, loss of control and many changes in our day to day life. Even though it's absolutely normal to feel this way, it's important to stay mindful of how you respond to that feeling of fear. Let's clarify this a bit. Fear creates distraction, so when something scary happens, in that moment, we are on high alert and not preoccupied with other things that might be on our mind. This brings us to the here and now, focusing solely on the fearful situation. This might be a positive experience, but could also be dangerous if it becomes all you can think about and stops you from living your life. The same is true for businesses. Many business are merely focused on staying alive, cutting cost and looking at their core business, at the expense of innovation. This McKinsey report shows that even though 90% of business leaders believe innovation will be critical, only 21% feels they are prepared to capture new growth opportunities. This shows that there's a big discrepancy between what is needed and what is happening, despite the fact that history has shown us that companies that invest in innovation during a crisis, deliver superior growth and performance post crisis (e.g. financial crisis in 2009). For more arguments on why the time is NOW to innovate, we gladly redirect you to the full McKinsey report. What we will focus on in the remaining part of this article is on the foundation that enables your organization to capture new growth opportunities. Fear of failure People constantly manage interpersonal risk at work, consciously or subconsciously, and even more so in crisis times. Doing this inhibits an open sharing of ideas, questions, observations and concerns. All things that can provide ample information on what's going on in the market and what potential problems arise. So when people don't dare to speak up, the organization's ability to innovate and grow is threatened. Radical innovation demands taking risks and trying out new things. In turn, these things increase the chance of failure. This is not a bad thing at all, since those failures uncover interesting insights about your market, enable the organization to improve, to pivot and they create opportunities for growth. However, if the leaders of the organization are not creating a culture and environment where it's ok to fail, the fear of making a mistake or to say something stupid, will stop employees from engaging in innovation-boosting activities. Also management itself may be afraid to accept and implement innovations for fear that they will fail. When they don't accept failures as part of the innovation process, the fear of failure will cause the organization to focus on incremental innovations that are safer and have less risk. The more radical innovations that can change the industry will be avoided because of fear.

The good news is that management has the power and ability to change this by installing a psychologically safe atmosphere that limits fear of failure. This research shows that the effect of the management on difficulties in the organization and the potential for improvement is no less than 94%! Our previous article shows you how to get started with this. It all comes down to being vulnerable, reassuring through communication and leading by example. If you're looking to boost innovation in your team or company, Contact us or book a free call with us! Sources: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-happens-brain-feel-fear-180966992/; https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/innovation-in-a-crisis-why-it-is-more-critical-than-ever#; https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jsl/vol3iss2/JSL_V3Is2_Kuyatt_pp31-40.pdf

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