Learn from Bitcoin – The Epitome of True Innovation Come to Life

In the business world today you cannot get away from discussions on the topic of innovation. Companies want more of it because investors and consumers expect more innovation in the marketplace. Therefore internal departments like Human Resources and Talent Development or Organization Capability are pushed to develop more skills in their people to drive behavior change, culture change and thus, enable more innovation.

However, very few innovations actually break through and can be sustained.

A prime example living out in front of us all right now is Bitcoin. Please tell me you’ve heard about Bitcoin, right? It’s truly all the rage . . .

Bitcoin images

This new form of currency where users can remain anonymous was invented in 2009. To use it, you keep your Bitcoins in a digital wallet. It didn’t truly gain traction in the marketplace on a global scale, and thus credibility, until more recently. It appeals to business owners because accepting it for purchases does not involve any transaction fees. This makes it more appealing than credit cards (or debit cards).

Because Bitcoin is unregulated, however, the value of each Bitcoin can change dramatically. Some users like this aspect of owning Bitcoins, while others shy away from it as a result. Its’ future remains unknown.

No other breakthrough innovation like Bitcoin exists in the world today. To create it, someone (unnamed – the person or persons remain anonymous) had to think about currency and transactions in a completely new and different way than ever before.

What can you, or your organization, learn from Bitcoin about building innovation capability?

  • Innovation requires a high tolerance for risk. Far more innovations will fail than succeed. Expect it. That is normal. You and your company culture have to learn how to accept failure without penalizing the people. Instead reward team members for learning from the effort.
  • Innovation requires extreme amounts of patience. This is the flipside of a high risk tolerance. Companies answering to Wall Street on a quarterly basis often struggle with this the most. Striking the right balance between short-term goals and long-term vision is essential if innovation is truly a priority, not just the latest catch-phrase. Not many companies would introduce a new product in 2009 and wait for it to “take off” in global markets in 2013, like Bitcoin.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask “what if …?” This means let go of the way things work today. Bitcoin let go of the notion that regulations would be inevitable, that businesses had to know who was making the purchase, and that pre-existing currencies were the only ones which would possibly be accepted for transactions. Those are all HUGE assumptions! What assumptions are you or your team making (whether you realize it or not) that are holding you back from a breakthrough innovation in your field?

Join me in watching what happens next for Bitcoin. It is a wild ride …

Betsy Winkler is Partner at People Results. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at bwinkler@www.people-results.com. Sign up to receive her and her colleagues’ blog at Current.