Mayor Steve Adler (Austin, TX) recently said that “Risk is the basic dance step of innovation.” May I add a friendly amendment to that, Mr. Mayor?
Let’s call it the Texas Two Step of innovation.
Yes, risk is basic to innovation. Without risk, you may have a lot of good ideas but never do much with them. But let’s say you take the risk, and it doesn’t work out quite like you had planned.
Now you need the rest of the two step of innovation – a commitment to learning. Without that, you may just keep taking risks that don’t pan out.
A commitment to learning means that when you take a risk, you are more invested in what you can learn from what happens than you are in being right. You’re curious, open, eager to see what unfolds. You ask questions, not to assign blame but to understand.
Without that orientation to learning, risk alone can be foolhardy. Innovation is built on the iterative two step – risk, learn, repeat.
Can you hear that classic Texas two step playing in the background? Hear it, feel your feet wanting to move. Ok - risk, learn, risk, learn, risk, learn. That’s the dance that will enable us to solve today’s most pressing social problems!
How does your organization respond to risk and failure? I'd love to hear your experiences.