There are few indisputable truths in life and, while the following isn’t one, it’s about as close as you’ll get: successful people take risks. Think about it. Name three people whose success you admire. Ellen DeGeneres? College dropout turned stand-up comedian—a.k.a. risk-taker. Bill Gates? College dropout turned billionaire—a.k.a. risk-taker. Lady Gaga? College dropout turned creative icon—a.k.a. risk taker.

I am certainly not trying to convince your children to drop out of college. I merely aim to underscore the importance of thinking outside the box. After all, that’s what risk taking is: bucking convention, cutting a new path. All successful companies innovate, and innovation happens at all levels.

How can you encourage your employees to take risks and catalyze innovation at your firm? The following are tips to integrate innovation into the fabric of your firm’s culture:

1. Promote core values centered around risk taking.
Craft visual reminders and display them liberally. Screen savers, meeting agendas, email signatures, poster boards, employee handbooks, and company stationery can all act as cues. Ensure that employees know you’ve got their back where innovation is concerned. Even if not all new ideas take flight, those that do will more than compensate for the odd misfire.

2. Cook pressure into company goals.
Setting near-unattainable goals drives employees to skip convention and seek new avenues to attain desired ends. Communicate that failure will be received not as cause for castigation, but as a signal of room for growth. Incentivize goals by tying in financial reward or other forms of validation, and trust that personal victory is often a bigger motivator than money.

3. Hire risk takers
Your employees are your company. Hire people who represent the company model you seek to institute. While diversity is critical, all hires should have one thing in common: a willingness to take risks. Test this with a simple question during the interview: “Can we count on you 24 hours a day?” The answer itself doesn’t matter; what you’re interested in is whether the candidate takes a stand.

4. Highlight success
Talk up people whose risks have paid off. Just as written cues are important reminders, so too are success stories. Whenever possible, show employees that you see their efforts by congratulating their wins. Not only will this inspire others, but it’ll nurture a sense of accomplishment in the employee being praised. On the flip side, be careful when addressing shortcomings. If you want your employees to innovate, it is critical that missed targets be understood as a part of the process.

Want more? Download a free copy of our e-book, Intrapreneurs in an Entrepreneur’s World and dig into concrete strategies for inspiring productive risk-taking at all levels of your firm!


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