HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY
14 You’d never know this if you listen to the people who write andspeak about leadership and innovation. They often make it soundas if out-of-the-box thinking, burn-the-boats risk-taking, and gutsy leadership are all it takes to win the race and rise to the top.But despite the great press and sizzle that surrounds the idea of innovation, the fact is that most attempts at innovation and majorchange crash and burn. Even organizations and leaders who arefamous for cutting-edge, innovative strategies have a far longer listof failures than successes.Now I’m not saying that all of our great ideas are doomed tofailure. I’m not saying that change and innovation are too dangerousto try at home. And I’m certainly not suggesting that change andinnovation are unimportant or unnecessary.No, the pundits are right. If we fail to innovate and change, weeventually will lose the race. We’ll fall to the bottom of the pile andslide into organizational irrelevance.But that doesn’t change the truth that innovation always carriessignificant risks. Failure is far more common than most aspiring leaders realize and far more likely than the zealous advocates of inno-vation are willing to admit.In fact, failure is an integral part of the change process.
AUTOS, AIRPLANES, AND THE INTERNET
Imagine for a moment that you had tons of money to invest whenthe combustible engine was first invented. Now imagine that youalso had the foresight to grasp how profoundly it would alter the way we live, spawning new industries and radically changing our globalculture, creating new pockets of enormous wealth.Since you couldn’t know which specific businesses would rise tothe top, you probably would have “wisely” invested as broadly as pos-sible in as many of the new automotive companies as you could find.But if you had done this, you would have gone flat broke. Ratherquickly, because almost all of the innovative startups in the automo-bile industry went belly up.
The same is true of the airline industry. While manned flighthas profoundly changed the way we live, if you had invested money