Innovation Flourishes Where Fear is Not

Innovation is not just a buzzword—although some believe the term is overused and others can’t get enough of it—many would agree that the concept of innovation is the lifeblood of growth for an organization.

But what is innovation exactly? If you ask Google, you will get many different definitions, some quite useless such as this one: “the action or process of innovating”.

The Oxford dictionary’s definition isn’t much better:

“Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”

As I browsed the internet, I found hundreds of definitions, most talking about new products, services, and ideas. Here is one I particularly liked from

"Turning an idea into a solution that adds value from a customer perspective."

But my favorite definition comes from Eyal Shahar, our CEO of Online Trading Academy:

Innovation is the return on investment of love that was shared from the employer with the employees. Love that is fearless and as Thomas Aquinas defined it as “to wield the good of another.”

Love? Yes, love. In today’s business climate, this idea – a culture of love – is sometimes hard to visualize in action, but OTA is living proof that it works. You can see it in everything we do from the leaders, to the processes, to the culture.

It is important to note that you must have all three of these concepts in action as long as culture is at the helm.

For example, many people will attribute innovation to an entrepreneurial CEO like a Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, or a new system and new business process like Agile, Slack, or R & D. But purely leader led, or procedure dependent innovation is not sustainable in the long-term and does not foster true innovation. The simple truth is that no matter how good the leader and/or the process, they are bound to fail without a culture geared toward innovation.

Eyal explains it like this:

Think of a computer. To run its day-to-day operations, a computer relies on its most important feature – its operating system. In business, your “operating system” is your culture – this is the blend of values, norms and behaviors inside your business. The processes or technologies that businesses implement in an attempt to drive innovation (again, like Agile or Slack) are applications.         

An application is a very useful tool, but it only works if the operating system works. If the operating system is broken, then it doesn’t matter how strong the applications are, the computer simply won’t function. The same is true for any business.

“Mechanical” solutions fail to properly address the challenge to innovate since they cannot spur innovation on their own. It is the return on investment of love shared from the employer with the employees, that spur innovation.

If you really think about it, innovation is the highest level of reciprocation that an employee can offer and, although we all need to pay our bills, it is not a paycheck that drives this type of exchange but rather an environment of support and trust—the foundations of love. If you can remove fear and build trust, you’ll naturally build a culture of love and, as a result, foster innovation.

Yoko Ono got it right though when she said, “The opposite of love is fear.” When you truly understand innovation, you realize that it cannot flourish in a culture filled with fear. When employees are truly innovative, they give you something more valuable than any product or task – they give you their ideas. That is true innovation. That is love