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The Barnes & Conti Resource Library:
Innovation & Risk-Taking

Articles on Innovation and Risk-Taking

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Article: What Kills Innovation? Your role as a leader in supporting an innovative culture by Nelson Soken, Ph. D. and B. Kim Barnes

Excerpt: “...In (a) McKinsey survey, 65% of the executives surveyed are disappointed with their ability to stimulate innovation in their organizations. It’s not as if these leaders and organizations are not investing in innovation. They invest in workshops on innovation, experts come in to consult with leaders on innovation strategy or recommend building ‘creative spaces.’ They recognize that creating a positive and cheerful workplace is important to employee engagement and productivity. Unfortunately, they see few new products or services emerge from their development teams....”

Article: Innovation Journey: How can you lead and manage it? by Nelson Soken, Ph. D. and B. Kim Barnes (from Leadership Excellence Magazine)

Excerpt: “...Innovation requires tapping people’s creativity and imagination in cultivating a culture that stimulates and supports innovation. Innovation is not the result of imposing specific processes and disciplines, but it is an inherently human activity that requires a broad understanding of how people think and behave.

Innovation differs from development efforts because it requires a degree of uncertainty and challenges to the status quo. Often, processes that drive improvement require repeatability and minimize variability. Innovation is about increasing variability and encouraging expansive and divergent thinking....”

Article: Growing Ideas

Excerpt: “...Ideas are a lot like plants in a garden. When they are young, they need to be nurtured, nourished, treated gently. They need time and space to grow. Later, when they have developed and become stronger, you need to prune them, even pull some up to make room for others. Similarly, the way you talk with people about their ideas should depend on the level of development of the idea. There are four stages in idea development; each requires a different response if your goal is to end up with a large number of ideas that can become innovations.....”

Article: How to Uncover Great Ideas and Develop Talent


“For many years, I have followed three rules during the early phases of the creative process—’m not sure where I learned them, but they have proven to be highly valuable when I remember to use them! They are focus, attention and acceptance.

Keep your focus on the other person. Rather than “improving” his or her idea, encourage him or her to tell you more about it. Ask for his rationale or examples of how the idea might work. Be curious, not challenging at this phase.....”

Article: Innovation, a Critical Component of Business Success by Nelson Soken, Ph. D.

Excerpt: “According to the 2011 Booz & Company Global Innovation 1000 Report, companies with both a highly aligned culture and highly aligned innovation strategy had a 30% higher enterprise value and 17% higher profit growth than companies without alignment. What the research suggests is that a clear innovation strategy and a culture that supports innovation are critical to business success.

The challenge for organizations is to create alignment around strategy and culture to facilitate innovation.....”

Article: Facilitating Creativity and Innovation

Excerpt: “Innovation, by definition, is the process of creating value from new ideas. One key to releasing innovation capability in an organization is to provide individuals and groups with a clear way to generate and develop ideas and move them into action. In many cases, this happens through a well-understood process, pathway or forum. Regardless of the mechanism for moving ideas to implementation (formal innovation initiative, specific innovation goal, or an idea they believe in and wish to move toward implementation), organizations also need the capability to optimize value creation from ideas. The role of the “innovation facilitator” is a powerful means to that end....”

Article: Intelligent Risk-Taking

Excerpt: “When we take a risk, we act in a situation where the outcome is unknown, and there is a chance of loss or negative consequences. There is no innovation without risk. Simply taking the step of moving beyond our previous boundaries of thinking (required for generating creative ideas) is a risk... Choosing not to take action may be the biggest risk of all. In order to be a successful innovator, one must be aware of the risks involved and develop the skills required to manage them intelligently....”

Article: Is Brainstorming Brain Dead?

Excerpt: “...Although it is often thought of as a creative process, brainstorming is not really a creative thinking technique. Its real purpose is to “empty the box” of ideas that have been hanging around unspoken or unremarked so that you can then get outside of the box to explore new ideas. This is not a bad thing; good ideas walk out the door of organizations between the ears of very smart people every day. Providing a process for giving those ideas their fifteen seconds of fame is useful....”

Article: Three Years Before the Mast: A Lesson in Risk-Taking
by Isabella Conti, Ph.D.

Excerpt: “Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I sold our comfortable home in the Berkeley hills with a grand view of the San Francisco Bay and bought a 50-foot ketch to sail around the world. We had no previous sailing experience. As if that didn’t seem crazy enough to our friends, we were taking our four-year-old son, who didn’t have much choice in the matter. We were making this jump into the unknown for no reason that we could explain rationally at the time....”

All articles by Kim Barnes unless otherwise noted.


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