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21.07.2023 Today’s Insights from McKinsey: Overcoming Human Barriers to Innovation (AKA Overcoming Fear)

21.07.2023 Today’s Insights from McKinsey: Overcoming Human Barriers to Innovation (AKA Overcoming Fear)
Dear Students,
Innovation. The very term inspires a spark of excitement. Something new, creative, or fresh, which hasn’t been conceived or done before.
These terms evoke beautiful images for companies and individuals alike. So why doesn’t true innovation, a critical element for global business success, occur more often? Why do we, both as individuals and entities, tend to stick with the same patterns and processes, procedures and programs, for longer than optimal?
McKinsey partners Laura Furstenthal, Alex Morris and Erik Roth hypothesize that the reason we do so relates to fear. In the linked article, they identify 3 major kinds of fear that can hold back bright and talented professionals, at any level, despite the critical role that innovation plays in both personal and professional growth. With candidates like you in mind, such reasoning means that ambitious international students (yes, you!) could benefit from becoming aware and relinquishing excessive fears of:
  • Criticism
  • Uncertainty and loss of control and
  • Negative impact on your career,
…which may unknowingly constrain you from achieving your full creative potential.
On the flip side, the authors point out that “Employees of top innovator [companies] are 11 times more likely than those at other organizations to say that their organizations incentivize risk taking and five times more likely to reportencouragement of experimentation.” To do so requires willingness for a company to cede fear in its own way, allowing employees like you and your talented friends to explore and experiment with new approaches, even if you fail in some way(s).
The writers extend their findings to coin distinctive 5 fundamental signposts of an innovation culture, concepts that are useful for aspiring talent like you to bear in mind when evaluating prospective employers:
  • Believe and value
  • Frame and champion
  • Signal and symbolize
  • Show and ritualize
  • Shield and empower
The three McKinsey partners close their paper by emphasizing the significance of these constructs: By providing employees with psychological safety, an innovation-centric purpose, and explicit encouragement and rewards, management can help them find the courage to risk failure in pursuit of creative ambition. Only by addressing the fears that hold people back from experimenting can companies build a true innovation culture.”