Performance Management Blog

Innovation and Fear of Failure – a blog by Russ Linden

Every so often, I get a blog post that merits a re-posting and Russ Linden is often the author. I simply like the way he thinks and he writes well about issues of government and management, things we should all find of interest since we are all paying for it.

In this particular post, he talks about governmental fear of failure, something that stops innovation and improvement and which is something behind the progress of every community, county, state and regional governmental agency that impact all of us in so many ways.

russ lindenYou can read the whole blog by clicking on Russ’ image at left or going to:


Here are the key learning points he makes:

What to do? How can public-sector leaders overcome risk aversion and gain support for their innovative projects? Here are some strategies to consider:

  • “Sell” the problem. “The cost is high, other (traditional) approaches fell short. Avoiding the problem is irresponsible.”
  • Manage expectations. Don’t promise the world. Call it a pilot, start small, focus on learning.
  • Be realistic about risk. Describe where this approach has been tried, and the results.
  • Partner wisely. If working with a private firm is appropriate to the task, find a respected company that has experience with the approach.
  • Develop a constituency. Seek backing from well-respected individuals in the community who have no self-interest in the program and believe it’s a legitimate role for government.
  • Compare what you want to do with other programs: The U.S. government, for example, has been funding cancer research since the late 1960s. We haven’t found the cure, but the need is huge and the public supports ongoing research.
  • Play to pride: “This is America. We don’t back away from the tough ones. We’re a can-do people.”

And perhaps the most important strategy is patience. Take the long view. It may take years to get the needed support to launch an initiative, guide it through the inevitable failures and setbacks, and finally see results. That’s a cost innovators learn to pay. And it’s often well worth it.

Yeah, I think Patience and also Trust are key elements to innovation and change of all kinds. We need to trust that people are working for us / with us — and I do see this as a big issue as people with specific agendas are elected into government positions of power to push certain key elements and not do what is right for society.

And fear stops things, as from the Dune books of Frank Herbert:

Fear is the mindkiller

Fear. I see the Vote Restriction Laws being passed by so many states under the guise of “fraud prevention” because of people being afraid of a changing demographic in our society, and I see States choosing not to open expanded Medicaid to its citizens simply because the governors and legislatures do not like President Obama or the Democratic Party and fear that these health care improvements will cause political problems for them long-term.

Take a look at Russ’s article on his blog, since he takes a pretty distinguished view on these things. And I am reminded of this poster image below
(source unknown but I will attribute if someone can identify the copyright – I cannot read the top info):

(source unknown)

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, creator of the Square Wheels images and toolsDr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.

Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at

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Scott’s blog on Poems and Quips on Workplace Improvement is here.


Dr. Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of the amazing Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine team building game and the Square Wheels facilitation and engagement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced global presenter. -- You can reach Scott at and a detailed profile is here: -- Scott is the original designer of The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine teambuilding game and the Square Wheels® images for organizational development.

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1 Comment

  1. russlinden

    Scott, you’ve added a critical element to the innovation process — that of trust. It is central to much of what our organizations need, especially innovation. If we’re going to change, adapt, experiment, there will be mistakes, even “failures.” And that inevitably requi
    res trust. Well done!


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