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"Maybe stories are just data with a soul." (Brené Brown)

Innovation Needs Trust

Dear believers in Innovation,

This article is not for you!

It is for those who struggle with innovation because they fail to understand the importance of innovation and are trapped by their own fears. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of losses. These people don’t see that they will incur the biggest losses because they fail to understand the need for change in order to survive.

The attitude of many companies to innovation reminds me of the story about the ‘Two Mice In A Mess’. It is about two mice, let’s call them Him and Hore, which were sitting together in a chamber providing them a sufficient daily cheese supply.They were never wondering about other opportunities and were just happy in this chamber because it gave them everything they needed: shelter, food, company, … That was until one day, when Hore realized, that the supply of cheese started to diminish. Outside their chamber there was a mess that they never explored because they never needed to leave the chamber. They were even afraid about the unknown outside of their chamber. As the situation had changed, Hore proposed to go out and try to find new supply of cheese. Him disagreed and argued, that the cheese supply will start again sooner or later. There has always been cheese supply in this chamber and this will not change. So Hore took as much cheese as he was able to carry and left while Him stayed in the chamber. After a long time Him was convinced that it was the right decision to stay, although the daily cheese supply in the meantime had diminished down to a minimum which was hardly enough to feed one mouse. Hore, he thought, didn’t return, must have failed and probably even died in the meantime. But that was wrong. One day Hore came back and told Him about a multitude of other chambers with even bigger cheese supply out there in the mess. They would just need to take the remaining cheese with them because it takes some time to get there and Him should trust Hore to find the way. However, Him was doubting: “If we leave, we will lose the existing cheese supply in this chamber. Although it is not enough for two, it is better than nothing and might increase again soon.” “What if you don’t find back the way to the other chambers?” “When I take a look outside I can’t see anything. It is just dark out there and I’m afraid.”

To cut a long story short: Hore left again and never returned and Him died. Him wasn’t able to see the opportunities and failed to understand the need of change. Him didn’t trust Hore, he didn’t believe that Hore had really seen these other chambers. And Him incurred the biggest loss one could make - he died - because he wasn’t able to invest, wasn’t willing to sacrifice some of his limited resources in order to gain later.

With companies it is sometimes the same. Some people are visionary, have the talent to see things that others can’t. Others can only see what they already have and trust in what they always did. And it is tough for them to share limited resources with others, who tell about opportunities that are not yet visible. Some of them may even try to have trust in Innovators, but they don’t have sufficient patience. They ask for a fast Return on Investment. But this doesn’t work when it comes to Innovation. Simon Sinek says that “Innovation requires experiments and experiments require failure.” And I would like to add: all of this requires time and money and … TRUST!

Real innovation is difficult to find. Not because it is so rare, but more because it can be so tiny, so obvious, so simple. And this also makes it difficult to distinguish real innovation from developments. It is not enough just to adapt an existing innovation to something else. This is just development. Or to say it with Simon Sinek again: “True innovation is solving a real problem!” A real innovation may be right in front of us, but it takes time to realize that it is there and it takes huge efforts to identify and explore it.

So here is my message to those who do not yet believe in Innovation:

  1. If you read this, you made it to the end of this article. This is already a good start!

  2. If you want to survive, find the innovators in your company and have trust!

  3. If you can’t see what they see, try to have even more trust!

  4. Rather than questioning your innovators, start to question yourself, because “Organizations that are advancing something bigger than themselves, are the ones that are able to innovate outside of their own market or industry.” (Simon Sinek)

  5. If you do number 1. - 4., you are on a good way to become an innovator yourself, because you started to solve a real problem.

Good Luck!

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