Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Innovation FOMO and FOMAD

Today, memes enter and leave the lexicon so quickly that I almost hesitate to use newly coined words or phrases, in fear that they may have already become passe.  So you can imagine my trepidation in using FOMO - the "fear of missing out" - when writing about innovation.  However, rather than simply expand on innovation FOMO, I'd like to introduce another, even more important issue - FOMAD.  This is one of my own creation, and one I'm certain will be rippling through Twitter and the other social media platforms shortly.


What is FOMAD?  In the innovation context, FOMAD is the "fear of making a decision".  There is a tremendous amount of FOMAD in many innovation activities, and I think FOMAD is perhaps one of the most significant roadblocks to innovation success.  Here's why.

FOMAD is a symptom

FOMAD is a symptom of a consistently recurring problem in innovation.  Innovation teams have too little information or context about corporate direction, strategy, funding mechanisms or risk tolerance to decide whether or not the ideas they've created are useful or meaningful.  After days, weeks or months of innovation activity, they are left with a handful of what appear to be good ideas.  However, lacking good strategic context or clearly defined problems or evident financial support, the fear of making a decision about one of the ideas rises.  When all options seem equally viable and the path to a decision is unclear, all options seem equally attractive.  Innovation teams struggle with the fear of making a decision.

This symptom can be easily addressed and clarified by better scope definition, executive support and expectation setting earlier in an innovation activity.

FOMAD is about tradeoffs

FOMAD is also a problem due to scare allocation of resources - people, time and money - to innovation activities.  While scarcity and constraints are good fuel for innovation, they often create FOMAD when it's time to decide which ideas to champion, or even which problems or opportunities should be addressed by innovation.  The problem is that lack of resources and uncertain processes make innovation more of a gambling activity than an insightful, practiced activity.  So teams are left with the question - which big bet should we make?  Making one selection often means that you cannot invest in other good ideas, so decision making is delayed because the tradeoffs are uncomfortable or unfortunate.

FOMAD indicates career concerns

Fear of making a decision is also generated when careers are made or lost on a big project.  Too many times corporations build up an innovation activity and place too much emphasis on any one project.  Then, when the pressure mounts, it can be difficult for teams to get behind a good idea, recognizing that all new and transformative ideas have risk.  Even the best ideas can fail for all sorts of reasons.  Who wants to be the team that ardently supported an idea that eventually failed?  Failure of this type in many companies is a career-limiting move, what we used to call in my Accenture days a CLM.  Ever notice how wishy-washy many innovation teams are when called on to make a definitive statement about the potential success of an idea?  They know they cannot guarantee that the idea will receive the investment it requires, that it will be developed and launched successfully.  Thus it can be hard to make a definitive decision and back that decision when they don't control the downstream activities, and while many companies talk about failure as a learning exercise, it is more often a question of losing credibility.

FOMAD in your business indicates some key issues

Every business doing innovation has some FOMAD, but I've defined at least three reasons FOMAD might exist, and in doing so indicated some ways to reduce or eliminate FOMAD.

First, create clarity, funding and good scope for your innovation activities.  FOMAD is often a symptom of poor project definition or lack of executive support.

Second, while scarcity is a reality, innovation often receives far too little funding and can feel more like gambling that a careful investment.  Ensure the teams have enough funding to make good choices and that not every idea feels like the throw of the dice.

Third, mean what you say about failure.  Who wants to back a good idea when they can't guarantee the outcome but may be held accountable for the "failure"?  Failures are learning exercises - often expensive ones to be sure - but should be treated as such.  If failure is a career limiting move, then you can expect that your teams will be unwilling to ardently back good ideas.

These three instances of FOMAD are addressable. The first instance is a question of executive involvement, choosing important and urgent challenges and defining scope effectively.  The second instance is a question of resources and funding, having reasonable expectations for what it costs to do innovation and the potential return of ideas.  The third is about the expectations and culture of the organization, how people are rewarded and recognized (or punished) for failure, when failure was likely.

If your innovation activities aren't delivering what you expect, check your FOMAD.  And contact me, because I can help reduce and eliminate FOMAD in your business.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:17 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home