All business practitioners are taught to avoid risk. But, not when it comes to encouraging innovation. The risk is trying something new and failing, which is mandatory in the process to find and capture innovation.

Most managers I know want their employees to be curious and experimental, to take the initiative and develop new products and solutions. But, as it turns out, managers also like to micromanage and control outcomes through safe, predictable processes. As a result, managers end up stifling the very experimentation they want to foster.

When Upworthy launched, we were berated for not using industry-standard practices. But two years and 50 million monthly readers later, Upworthy was barraged with requests for lectures and workshops on our “best practices” — and some of those requests came from past detractors. Ironically, we didn’t have a list of “best” practices; we simply had a practice of fostering experimentation by testing every piece of content. In fact, as our site grew I came to be suspicious of the very idea of best practices and got in the habit of saying: “Best practices are for amateurs.”

In my experience, the only way to encourage a team to be more innovative is to shift from a static, “best practices” mentality to a dynamic, “laboratory” mentality and to make each team member, not the manager, responsible for the results.

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