Investing in innovation is a gamble that usually ends in flop or fortune. Frequently today it falls to startups to make those wagers as they may have less to lose. Seth Godin argues instead that “with great power comes great irresponsibility” and that existing companies don’t have to always play the safest route and ought to invest in innovation since a single failed attempt doesn’t mean that the company will fail.
Organizations tend to view “responsiblity” as doing the safe, proven and traditional tasks, because to do anything else is too risky. The more successful they become, the less inclined they are to explore the edges.
In fact, organizations with reach and leverage ought to be taking more risks, doing more generous work and creating bolder art. That’s the most responsible thing they can do.
In an interview with Wired, Google co-founder Larry Page echoed a similar sentiment. When asked about Google’s ambitious culture, Page replied, “It’s natural for people to want to work on things that they know aren’t going to fail. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change.”
In fact, Google has set up a separate division, Google X, to be the home for their most outlandish projects.
You know, we always have these debates: We have all this money, we have all these people, why aren’t we doing more stuff? … I feel like there are all these opportunities in the world to use technology to make people’s lives better. At Google we’re attacking maybe 0.1 percent of that space. And all the tech companies combined are only at like 1 percent. That means there’s 99 percent virgin territory… If you’re not doing some things that are crazy, then you’re doing the wrong things.