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Innovation: Despite Uncertainty, the Best Course is Prudent Risk Taking

By Dick Weisinger

The COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented in how quickly it has managed to totally upend both our work and personal lives.

Whole sectors of industry have been shutdown or been forced to readjust to new requirements and conditions. In particular, attitudes towards on-line interactions have been forced to change quickly and have had a huge impact on the delivery of services from fields like education, commerce, sports, workplace and entertainment. The crisis has caused many to radically rethink how things work and to inspire innovative entrepreneurial thinking.

John Kao, chairman of Institute for Large Scale Innovation, said that “how we collaborate from a work perspective, how we spend our leisure time, how we educate ourselves, how we participate in political processes. They’re all up for review at this point because we’ve had to learn a whole bunch of new habits and inhabit a new set of tools. … That, of course, creates a tremendous opportunity for innovation, and for the entrepreneurs who can drive the innovative new concepts to some level of fruition.”

An article by Wharton suggests that the current business environment promotes prudent risk taking. “Sure bets are rare, but the way companies cope with this irreducible uncertainty separates growth leaders from laggards. Leaders are distinguished by (1) learning from their disappointments, (2) sharing risks with their development partners, and (3) containing and managing these risks with small, staged bets. They take cues from start-ups to adapt concepts such as rapid prototyping, frugal experiments and lean methodologies.”

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