What is Not a Manager’s Job…

November 11th, 2014 by Kelly Kienzle

Innovator's Leap

“It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.”

Ed Catmull used this maxim to guide Pixar, Inc. through its birth and emergence as one of the most creative and innovative companies of its time. It is an interesting twist on the notion that a manager must protect their team from risk.

Many of us spend time thinking about how to minimize risk and find the smoothest path for our teams to take. Yet if new learning and greater creativity come from making mistakes and going into uncharted territory, then risk becomes a necessary ingredient. Failure to add this ingredient creates a product without creativity and innovation.

We want our teams to venture into new places with both clear and unclear risks. A manager’s job is to assume that these risks exist and to prepare for and be able to respond to them.

When preparing for risk, it can be helpful to think on 3 levels: the organization, the team and the individuals.

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the risk for my organization, my team, my people?
  2. And what can I do to support them to take the risks, again and again?

So, steer your ship towards risk. Be ready to support your crew. Then marvel as you all experience the disruption that spawns creativity and innovation.

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