Strategies to deal with fear of innovation: Dr Dzingai Katsamba

Strategies to deal with fear of innovation – by Dr Dzingai Katsamba, Dean: Innovation and Technology


In the previous article (Overcoming the fear factor as a human barrier to innovation), different types of fears that are detrimental to the success of innovation were unpacked. Today, we investigate strategies to deal with fear of innovation that tranquilises most people to such an extent that none of their ideas see the next sunrise.

Leaders know that they need to innovate. When leaders assess technology, the differences in generations, and growing market demands, they often learn that their association must change, but how do they develop this rare character of being more risk tolerant and less afraid of failure?


| The strategies below cement the solidity of understanding ways to conquer this fear of innovation failure.

Determine a Safety Zone

Where exactly are leaders willing to take risks? Is there an area that makes sense, where the biggest returns can be reaped?

Asking these questions will help the leaders to better understand why they need to make a conscious decision to change and pursue innovation.

The things that leaders and their followers are willing to change, fall into the safety zone, so efforts should be made to start brainstorming on ways to make them better. This drive will present a springboard to bigger challenges. Once the organisation becomes aware of what they are not willing to let go of, they must find the reason why.

Tradition? Revenue fears? Political ramifications? Are they real concerns or just a desire to do what is easiest?

These items can be tackled after the organisation’s building of momentum and confidence in the abilities of its people to innovate.

Have a clear deadline

Innovation is not merely about an innovative idea, although it will start out that way. To achieve successful innovation, it is imperative to have an implementation plan (along with the idea). Successful implementation must be done on a schedule and given parameters for successful measurement. Take your idea, map out its implementation schedule, assign it a measure for success, and get it going. Then follow up, after the time has elapsed, to measure its success and talk about what worked. What cannot be measured, cannot be measured. Most organisations sing about innovation but there are no timelines.

Develop a culture of celebrating every little success

When executing innovation, take time to celebrate the little victories, and this may be about making a sudden change (improvement) to a long-standing event, or maybe it is the new schedule with which you send out renewals. Whatever idea you had, that you implemented – even if the risk was minor – celebrate its success.

These smaller and faster experiments will help you feel more confident to take on larger, game-changing ideas. That way fear dissipates faster than innovation success.

Stimulate enthusiasm in others

An innovative idea is procreated in an incubator and a culture that supports it. Innovative ideas are, in most cases, fragile things. An organisation will have difficulty with innovation until it is supported by the staff and board.

The innovative organisation should have a good compliment of positive, energetic and creative people. If you can’t, seek out the nay-sayers’ opinions often – not as a validation of your own – but distinctly asking for their thoughts on the future of your organisation.

Use language to your advantage. Don’t use overly encompassing or judgmental terms like “unsuccessful.” Try measuring words like: “it didn’t meet our revenue projections.” At the end of the day, while the idea may not have been what you expected, the innovation was worthwhile, partly because it placed you one step closer to finding what will be successful.

The famous Thomas Edison said: “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Fear of innovation has proved to be the main stumbling block to the commercialisation of innovations. The strategies mentioned above may help alleviate such fears and, hopefully, propel organisations to top echelons of the innovation genres.