Delegation is not abdication
A common refrain in innovation literature is that failure should be expected, celebrated and even rewarded. How, then, can good work be distinguished from bad? How can team members making strong contributions be identified
Delegation is not abdication. Set limits on the consequences of experimentation that those on your team can take without involving you. Think of it like a risk budget. In most organizations, budget authority is delegated in a measured way so as to protect the organization for large misallocations of funds, but at the same time permits staff to act without seeking permission for purchases within their scope of responsibility.
Because a “risk budget” is less cut-and-dry than a fiscal budget, this involves contact with staff where they lay out the innovation they wish to implement and the risks to the upside and downside. Conversations of this nature will reinforce that innovation is a priority, develop the language of innovation, and make transparent the amount of risk you will allow your team members to take on their own.
Under this model, staff are safe from the downside of the risks they undertake. Whether the upside or downside occurs, the staff member’s willingness to take risks should be rewarded.
Nevertheless, a team member can be held to account if they take risk beyond the limits set, or if they allows risks to increase due to inattention.
Learning from failure
Failure is expensive. Treat it as an investment.
SpaceX blew up several rockets on its way to its current string of successes. With each launch, the company gathered crucial data and analyzed it for the causes of failure.
Your team must feel safe revealing where attempts at innovation have failed, and reviewing the causes with others. Without this safety, the valuable lessons of failure will be lost.
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”