Be Ready to be Fired

There are really two kinds of people who do innovation jobs. Those who rock the boat, and those who don’t.

My observation is the latter usually don’t make much difference to anything. They’re too scared to make a difference. Because they’re scared, they only consider doing things that don’t matter much.
The fact is this. Innovation jobs aren’t supposed to be safe. If you sign up to do one, your duty to your organisation is to change things, to rock the boat.  If there was no desire to change the old way, why on earth would an innovation job have been created in the first place? Innovation jobs are permission to rock the boat.
The skill is in rocking the boat enough that things happen, but not rocking so much you capsize. 
Here’s another observation I have about people in innovation jobs. They need to have alternative employment opportunities available to them at all times, or else the financial freedom to be without work for a bit while they find a new role. 
When you don’t have that sorted out, you judge every innovation you undertake in terms of how much boat rocking it will likely cause. You limit what you do to preserve yourself. Consequently, you do very little, because there is no such thing as a comfortable innovation job.
It is inevitable that sooner or later someone is going to try to take out the innovators in an organisation if they try to do anything substantive. They’ll get called distracting, or “not core to the business”, or disruptive, or, even, dangerous. They’ll try to take out the innovator, because what else do they know how to do? 
You have to plan for this, be ready to deal with it. Your plans have to handle everything up to and including getting fired. Some innovators do get fired when they cause a capsize. That’s tough, but it comes with the territory. If change was supposed to be easy, everyone would be doing it.
But there are plenty of innovators who don’t see it this way. Theirs is the land of the comfortable, where taking a justified risk is never justified. 
They are the failed innovators.
Are you too scared to rock the boat? You may comfortable and safe in that case, but you’re also irrelevant. You should think about getting a new job, doing something meaningless that doesn’t matter. 
By doing so, you will be safe and comfortable, and you will give someone else a chance to make a difference. 

2 Responses to“Be Ready to be Fired”

  1. June 10, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    Good post, and I suspect it applies to more than just innovators.
    To be ready to be fired you need to have maintained your network, your profile, your skills, and your understanding of the market. And most importantly, to avoid any awkward gaps on your cv, you need to have achieved something significant in your current role.
    And as you rightly point out, you're more likely to achieve something significant if you're not afraid to try (and get it wrong occasionally too).

  2. June 10, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    One the best bits of advice I’ve had since heading out as a consultant is “always have options”. If you’re out to make a difference (as a consultant or as an innovator) then you’re going to rustle some features, at which point you’ll be glad you have options.

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