Inventive thinking doesn’t “just happen” — even when you recruit brilliant stars, give them autonomy and ask them to bring you their best recommendations. When we train innovation leaders, we prepare them to lift teams above 12 risk-averse traps. Which of these 12 traps do you see when your product teams, account teams, executives, IR teams, post-M+A integration teams or Board of Directors face complex multifaceted problems — or opportunities that have never been seized before? Which do you face, on the BOD, when an entrepreneur presents a new pitch or a bold direction for the company?
Step 1 is Diagnosis. Can you recognise when your team, task force, Board Meeting or customer negotiation falls into one (or more) of these risk-averse traps?
Sandbagging. Compromise to appease disgruntled teammates or settle for a “majority-rules” vote rather than engaging and working through thorny, contentious or vexing issues, Put comfort ahead of inventive thinking. Regress to average. Lower standards so everyone can get gold stars.
Hierarchy deference. Look to the most senior person in the room for directions, decisions or approval – rather than looking to those with relevant know-how, data and expertise. Enable higher-ups to believe in their infallibility.
Groupthink. Look around the room and see everyone else nod in agreement. When you raise questions, no one else wants to grapple with the issues or wants you to make waves. “We’ve already decided,” they say, “Move on” – even though you sense something isn’t right.
Bias against outlyers. Act startled, perplexed or annoyed when someone offers a disruptive or out-of-the-box idea. Be especially skeptical if the person who puts the idea forward is a newcomer or an outsider with lesser status or low hegemony or is a member of a lower-status group (women, minorities, foreigners, etc)
Silo myopia. Fail to get perspectives outside your discipline or work stream or dismiss them as irrelevant or as distractions. Seek confirmation from others who think like you or defer to your discipline’s priorities.
Tunnel vision. Define the problem incorrectly by focusing on what you know or what you have already done or considered (e.g., “how do we raise capital?” rather than “how do we grow?”). Come into fact-finding with confirmation bias – intent on validating what you already believe.
Win/lose rivalries. Approach other groups as rivals or adversaries rather than collaborators. Politicize differences of opinion by turning them into power struggles or loyalty tests (“Are you with us or not?”). While appearing pleasant and upbeat, vie for upper hand or maximum share of resources or visibility. Negotiate to win, not for win/win/win value-optimisation.
Chaos and turbulence. Distracted by politics, information overload, side-issues, noise. Deliberations reach false consensus by involving too few people or fail to reach consensus because too many people attend without a design or mechanism to shift from idea-sharing and brainstorming into decision-taking.
Role ambiguity. Wait for someone else to step up and call for a decision or set the agenda because it isn’t clear who plays what role. Let lack of clarity drift rather than bringing definition to the deliberations.
Rub the wrong way. Put off or offended by alien perspectives, personalities, ethnic groups, genders, age groups or professions – and “kill the messenger” rather than open up and listen to the threat-assessments or opportunity-assessments they provide.
Victim thinking. Justify choices or passivity by declaring why it was not our fault, we did not have permission, the culture was dysfunctional, opposition was too steep. Deflect accountability for mistakes, setbacks or miscalculations.
Step 2 is ennobling – lifting – replacing risk-averse thinking with inventive thinking. We can show you 5 proven steps to do this. Some of these steps may come easily to you. Others may take more conscious effort and practice, before you work them into a fluent uplifting motion. The steps are: AIM high -> PURPOSE, ALIGN interests -> trust to RISK, ASK inquisitively -> open CANDOUR, ADOPT best practices -> instill RIGOUR, AROUSE passion -> revitalize WILL. Take this assessment to see if your leaders and teams have the EnCourage Quotient (EnQ)™ to PowerUP these 5 Courage Activators at the “moments of truth” when they fall into risk-averse traps.