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When You Lose Trust in Innovation

May 13, 2021

If you are reading this there is a good chance that you have been in a similar place, or at least fear you are on a similar trajectory based on recent experience. Innovation, a word that used to be exciting and unpredictable, has become predictably unexciting.

Maybe the word “innovation” has lost its meaning to you, or you have been burned by too many projects that didn't seem to go anywhere.

When we lose trust, it is crucial that we put a plan in place to allow that trust to be rebuilt instead of waiting until the innovation stars align on their own.

Here are a few suggestions to try as you begin to rebuild your trust in innovation:

  1. Revisit the "Why": In my experience, this is the best place to start. What was the problem you were trying to solve? Why was it so important to solve this problem? Was the innovative idea you were working with the only possible solution? If not, were you truly open to exploring other solutions? You have likely heard the line, “fall in love with the problem, not the idea,” and this exercise can be a great way of rediscovering your passion for the problem.
  2. Map it out: What was the system or process that you followed to see your innovation through to implementation? Was there a system or process at all? When you take a step back and look at what steps were taken to get you to where you are today, it will often reveal where momentum was lost or where progress was taken off its tracks.
  3. Explore your expectations: What role did you expect innovation to play? Was innovation supposed to swoop in and save the day? Was innovation supposed to be a quick fix to a bigger problem? When we take the time to explore our expectations, we often find that our teams, our leaders, even ourselves may not be clear on what role innovation is meant to play in finding solutions that stick.
  4. Evaluate internal forces: What was the level of support you received from your organization in your last innovation endeavour? Is there anything you can learn from what your teams were motivated by, and what didn’t seem to get anyone fired up? Often, it is not a failure of the individual idea or innovation that is to blame when a project loses momentum. Exploring how to get the buy-in required before you begin a project is key to its success.

The purpose of these exercises is not to get stuck in analyzing what didn’t work in the past, but rather to take the necessary time to reflect and learn from data that is freely available to us at all times—our own experiences.

What suggestions do you have to rebuild trust in innovation that has been lost?

-Evan Hildebrand

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