If you’re around me any time at all you’ll probably hear me say that there’s an upside and a downside to everything.  It’s somewhat related to the idea that there is no problem-free solution to anything.  That being said, we’ve talked a lot about the importance of innovation and change, but we haven’t talked much about the costs of innovation.

One of my favorite writers is Bob Sutton.  As a co-author of The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense he’s produced some really good work examining some commonly held assumptions…that turn out to be false or at least only half true.

In today’s blog post, Sutton refers to a quote from James March, the highly regarded Stanford professor emeritus.  This is a great quote!  Ought to be posterized and put up on some walls that I know.  Read it carefully and thoughtfully.  There’s a lot here that many of us need to hear.

"Unfortunately,
the gains for imagination are not free. The protections for imagination
are indiscriminate. They shield bad ideas as well as good
ones—and there are many more of the former than the latter. Most
fantasies lead us astray, and most of
the consequences of imagination for individuals and individual
organizations
are disastrous. Most deviants end up on
the scrap pile of failed mutations, not as heroes of organizational
transformation. . . . There is, as a result, much that can be viewed as
unjust
in a system that induces imagination among individuals and individual
organizations in order to allow a larger system to choose among
alternative experiments. By glorifying imagination, we entice the
innocent into unwitting self-destruction (or if you prefer, altruism)."

Imagination: There’s an Upside and a Downside to Everything