Like you, I’m constantly trying to keep up with innovation –an impossible but thrilling task. Innovation moves fast, and like Ferris Bueller says, “If you don’t pay attention, you might just miss it.”

I recently attended a ½ day deep dive about corporate risk-taking at Innovation 360 Group AB in NYC, an amazing Swedish-led and globally executing consulting firm I admire greatly. There I learned from Executive Director Johannes Jarl and David Milligan, Principal at Ulysses Partners about RATS: Riskiest Assumption Tests. It’s among the tools that folks in insurance and risk management [and maybe even your departments] use to gauge risk.

The most visionary companies study risk, but do you know what they often fail to calculate?

The risk of doing nothing –statistically, economically, or culturally. I was blown away by the data shared in the meeting. In a 2022 poll issued by Innovation360 and its partners,

  • 90% say innovation is critical for their growth
  • 6% are satisfied with their organization’s innovation efforts

Why are we so unsatisfied when it’s clear how critical it is for our success? InnoSurvey data for 5,000 companies shows that:

  • 78% state they are making substantial efforts to innovate
  • 10% believe they have the capability to execute on that vision

If you want to unleash innovation energy, the studies show that you need to achieve a balanced mix of iterative/incremental innovation [e.g., hot water Tide to cold water Tide] vs. exploitative/radical innovation [e.g., Flip phone to iPhone]. Studies show that companies that have even aspired to radical innovation do better than those that live rigidly by incremental innovation alone.

The lesson: Safe bets alone aren’t enough. Those who take the 3-point shot at the buzzer will still do better than those who shoot for a layup every time. Michael Jordan himself had the most game-winning 3-pointers in NBA history. He also had the most game-losing 3-pointers.

So, we want to innovate, but we don’t believe we can get it done. It’s a crisis of faith. In fact, a full 85% of executives agreed that their most significant setbacks to innovation are:

  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of uncertainty
  • Fear of personal negative career impact

How do we tackle the need for the right risk-to-reward ratio AND soothe our own fear of failure? It’s the story we tell ourselves and our teams and colleagues. Innovation Storytelling requires leaders to share a vision for the future and paint the picture of how you’ll get others there. It gives them pathways to play a vital role in that shared future and the clear benefits that make the effort worthwhile.

Overcoming fear is a big part of winning in innovation. Pack the right story, tell it often, and give others the means – in meetings, social media, town halls, and off-sites to share their own part of the story, and you’ll knock out all the fears, so you can lead the change you need to win.