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The Importance of "Collective Innovation"​

Despite what your favorite science fiction show has led you to believe, the future is unknowable. Every day, we all make decisions about the future based on conjecture and guesswork — both of which are informed by our thoughts and personal beliefs.

This is particularly true at work, especially if you need to make strategy and innovation decisions inside a large organization. There will always be different paths forward, each with their pros and cons, and all full of uncertainty. You’ll have many more questions than answers. Yet, most workplaces reward conviction, strength, and success. And while it’s very likely that your decisions will prove flawed in some way, it’s unfortunately hard to get credit for even a “smart, quick” failure.

The best way to solve this dilemma is to ensure that you bring your key stakeholders into the decision-making discussion. There will always be value in tapping into the “Wisdom of the Crowds.” If someone has knowledge or experience that could increase (or decrease) an initiative’s chance of success, you want to hear what they have to say. If that person could prove a valuable ally — or challenging opponent — you want to know that too. In both cases, the earlier you have those insights, the better.

If you can get everyone on the record describing which path forward makes the most sense to them and why, you can also turn milestone meetings from pitches into productive, transparent discussions. Instead of solely shouldering the burden of building the case to support a particular course of action, you can enlist those onboard to explain their support. You can ask skeptics to share their key questions before seeing if the group can work through them together. At the end, you’ll have greater buy-in simply by changing the decision dynamic. And it will be a collective journey forward through the inevitable twists and turns of your chosen path.

Now, all of this is easier said than done, as few workplaces are truly psychologically safe. From the beginning, you need to make clear that you want everyone to speak up. You’ll need to back up your words with actions — perhaps by admitting when you don’t have all the answers or when you made a mistake. You’ll need to replace presentations with discussions, and do far less talking and far more listening. For some leaders, it’s going to be really hard to establish and then model these commitments over time. It becomes easier, though, when opponents no longer ambush you in meetings and when the whole group shoulders responsibility if and when things don’t work out as planned.

At Derisk, we believe this is the only way to make the best strategy and innovation decisions in a rapidly changing and uncertain world and we are committed to making it easier to do so. We are building digital, data-driven, stakeholder management solutions because we believe in corporate innovation and think stakeholder management is what’s holding it back.

If you’re interested to learn more, we’d love to connect. Grab some time here.

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