Igniting Innovation: Tips, Sparks and Ideas for Acting on Innovation


Posted by David Lafkas on May 5, 2016 10:00:00 AM

About ten years ago I made a decision.  I adopted a rescue dog named Domino.  When I made the decision to adopt her, I had a mental list of reasons to do so with the knowledge that there were ramifications, positive and negative, to my decision. 

I assumed she would provide companionship and bring much joy to me.  I made this assumption based 2008-11-06_Domino_08-1.jpgmerely on seeing a picture of her and seeing how other friends’ dogs brought love to them.  I didn’t have 100 percent assurance that Domino would deliver what I wanted and needed.

I figured Domino would end up costing me about “x” number of dollars per month per year.  I calculated that based on the amount I thought a dog would eat each week, the costs associated with visiting the vet annually, and then the costs to kennel a dog when I traveled. 

After adopting her, I found that some of my assumptions were correct, and some were way off.  And that was okay.  I made the best decisions I could at the time with the information I had at the time.  I had made a decision to adopt her, and that decision could not be unmade.  There were ramifications to the decision to adopt her, and that decision would lead to more decisions - some right, some not as right in hindsight, but all with the understanding that decisions had to be made. 

It is no different in our organizations every day.  Each of us make decisions, some more, some less, in driving the organization forward.  None of us have all the answers or full clarity as we make those decisions.  We have to work with a smaller than desired amount of information, rely on our past experiences, then mix that with a gut feeling, and then make a decision - and live with it.

That is not to say that we cannot change our mind later or admit we made the “wrong decision” in hindsight  With time comes more information that helps us understand the true ramifications of our decision.  At the time of decision, however, the success is that a decision is made knowing that there is not 100 percent clarity available.

A lack of decisiveness, especially in the position where not all the information is as clear as we would like, leads to frustration, stagnation, and pain for and within an organization.  It is only through making a decision that we learn more, make corrections as needed, and thrive as an organization. 

About three weeks ago I had to make a very difficult decision.  Domino had been on chemotherapy for about 7 months and it was seemingly evident that she had less energy than before.  She wasn’t eating as much.  A tumor in her nasal cavity was becoming clearly visible.  Domino couldn’t tell me what hurt.  Her vet said additional tests could be run.  But the tests would just give more information (at a cost) that would tell me what I could assess from looking at Domino, comparing Domino’s then current energy level to her previous 10 years, and then knowing what my gut was telling me. 

And a decision was made. 

Not making the decision would merely have prolonged the inevitable and caused greater pain to my friend, which in turn would have caused even more pain for me.  Making the decision was incredibly hard, and I wish I could have more time with Domino, but I made the best decision for us that I could with the information I had at the time. 

I may have missed out on my chance to meet my friend, someone else would have adopted her, or she may never have been rescued if I had prolonged that initial decision 10 years before because “I didn’t have enough information yet” and was seeking perfection in my decision making. 

And as a leader, are you able to make conclusive decisions?  And can you allow others to do so, even in the face of less information that you would like?  Or, do you keep requesting so much more information that nothing ever happens?

Take a few minutes today and think about some of the decisions you are making in your organization - no matter how large or small they may seem to you.  And then congratulate yourself and those around you who are able to make definitive decisions and not second guess themselves or others in the face of less information than desired.

(Admit it, you were drawn in by the photograph)

Topics: innovation, leadership, decisions

David Lafkas

Written by David Lafkas

David is Eureka! Ranch’s legal eagle, or more traditionally our patent and trademark authority, not only serving as in-house counsel at Eureka! Ranch, but also evangelizing on the importance of patents in today’s world of innovation to stay ahead of your competition. As an Innovation Engineering Black Belt, David has helped numerous companies develop patentable new products and services. Most recently, he’s supported High Liner Foods in Canada and the US on their comprehensive journey to achieve a culture of innovation as they not only create breakthrough seafood ideas, but also broadly educate employees and implement systems driven innovation across the corporation. David received a biomedical engineering degree from the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology and his juris doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, the 4th oldest law school in the country. He lives in Cincinnati with his rescue dog, Chauncey.

Welcome to the first blog from the Eureka! Ranch and Innovation Engineering Institute team.  Here you will find a diverse group of innovators dedicated to changing the world by transforming innovation from a random gamble to a reliable system that delivers increased innovation speed and decreased risk.


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