The Constant Tension Between Managing Innovation vs. Managing Risk

Managing innovation is a big role that puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of management teams. Depending on how much a company cultivates an innovative culture and environment, innovative ideas either go through chains of command, or are workshopped in specific departments.

Innovation managers look to incorporate the latest technological advancements into their organizations as quickly and seamlessly as possible and for good reason — company managers know that if they’re not incorporating innovation, they will be left behind, because there are many companies that are constantly searching for ways to improve and be better.

Types of Innovation

A lot of tension lives between innovation management and risk management. Innovation is important and necessary; however, implementing any innovative business plan comes with risk. Companies that cultivate innovative environments combat the fear of unsuccessful ideas by rewarding and recognizing ideas, even if they fail, so employees understand that having new ideas is half the battle. Only a small percentage of ideas will reap a high reward; however, it only takes one or two good ideas, brilliantly executed, to pay off for all the ideas that didn’t work.

The type of innovation a business implements says a lot about the company. Incremental innovations are for companies that like to play it safe as they are generally small changes to products and services the company already offers, therefore the risk involved is low. However, breakthrough innovations are bold changes and additions to a company; if they fail, it’s a very clear and notable unsuccessful attempt that casts a spotlight on their goals. Yet, if they are successful, they achieve high reward — the kind that leaves their competitors trailing behind them.

Balancing Innovation and Risk

Having a strong innovation team and incorporating goals into company culture is how startups and growing companies stay fresh and keep ideas rolling. An innovative company culture encourages base level employees to share ideas with their supervisors and managers, where a quick assessment will decide whether the idea should be explored. This is a good way to establish an innovation profile, filled with potential options of ideas to implement and explore once the risks are assessed.

The risk management team is the opposite side of that coin; they measure how ideas can be implemented, calculate the risks and possible avenues for these ideas. It’s important for this team to be cautious but balanced enough to not turn away potential breakthrough ideas. Even when they are turned away, it’s important to celebrate failed attempts to encourage team members and decrease the fear of sharing unsuccessful ideas.

Technology Innovation

Innovation can take many forms, including finding ways to incorporate new technology or using old technology in new ways. Finding ways to streamline company processes can save the company money and make standard practices more safe or efficient. Incorporating innovation through technology carries its own separate set of risks, though. Cyber security risk assessments are a necessary part of technological innovation, one that is often overlooked, with almost 50 percent of respondents with risk assessment technology overlooking possible threats.

Small businesses in particular often have a lot of room for growth and change, as they often consist of small teams with a lot of responsibilities, especially startups that are simply focused on remaining afloat. Only one-third of newly formed small businesses will survive ten years, which means there’s a lot of room for error if you don’t place enough focus on preventative measures for cyber security. Small businesses are often targets for cyber criminals who use ransomware to keep data hostage until you pay a ransom to decrypt your data, which has caused decades worth of research data to be lost in the past.

Incorporating any new innovation will come with its share of risks. However, without innovation, companies do not move forward and are left behind. By deciding on the type of innovation that’s right for your company, calculating the possibility of success while balancing potential risks, and doing what you can to ensure your company is minimizing its chance of becoming a target, you can deal with the tension that exists where innovation and risk meet, and continue searching for breakthrough ideas.
By Noah Rue

About the author

Noah Rue is a writer, a digital nomad, an ESL teacher, and an all around good dude, if he doesn’t say so himself.

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