I’ve worked with a few companies that have the same problem that constrains growth: management overestimates the odds of innovations succeeding.
They tend to see innovation as a linear, strategically planned process that relies heavily on their, or a small group’s, expertise and keen eye for innovating the ‘right stuff.’
This vision constrains the efforts of their organization to about a tenth what it needs for sustainable growth, because innovation has a 1-in-10 of succeeding, no matter how smart or keen the innovators are.
1-in-10 is not exact. It might be 1-in-50 or 1-in-5, but the idea is understanding the order of magnitude of the odds you’re dealing with.
Some with the linear innovation mindset pay lip service to the 1-in-10 chances, but think they can improve on those odds. They might think good innovation is as simple as following the data or they simply forget their failures well and overestimate their chances.
In this post, I likened the 1-in-10 innovation mindset with the chances of obtaining food during the TV show Naked & Afraid’s primitive survival challenge.
Participants who understand their chances of getting food is 1-in-10 appear to do better than those who fall into the same traps as managers with the linear innovation mindset when it comes to getting food.
They might think their fishing skills, for example, will help them beat the odds. “I know the right places to fish.”
While they cast one hook at a time in the ‘right spot,’ the 1-in-10’ers set 10 hooks and check them each day.
Others lend support to this idea.
In the article, Navigating the Route to Innovation, Bain & Co says companies with a variety of innovation approaches grow more than companies that rely on fewer approaches.
In other words, the more ways a company opens itself to innovating, the better the chance of finding their 1-in-10’s.
Scott Adams, the Dilbert Guy, wrote in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, that we live in a reality where the odds of something new succeeding are 1-in-10. He uses his life as an example, writing about the many failures and a few successes that made his career.
I found it interesting that Scott’s “1-in-10” term is the same used by used by the successful Naked & Afraid participants about getting food, “I have to keep trying to get my 1-in-10!”
If I’m hiring a business manager, I’d look for someone with the 1-in-10 mindset.
In the next post I’ll use another one of Scott’s concepts, Systems vs. Goals, to illustrate how someone with the 1-in-10 innovation mindset can achieve sustainable growth.