As an outspoken and passionate advocate for innovation and creativity in business (and in life), I’m often asked how organisations can foster and support the drive for new ideas and risk-taking. Australians have for too long now been complacent in the way we do business, and without a sincere and sustained effort to innovate and broaden our attitude towards new ideas and practices, many organisations will falter and fail in the coming years.

While most modern CEO’s are quick to agree that innovation is a key factor to future success, many also acknowledge that they are reluctant to encourage creative thinking in their employees. The fear of failure, particularly during an extended period of economic instability, is simply too great, and any idea that might contain an element of risk or controversy is quickly shot down.

Almost all great innovators in history – from Einstein all the way up to my grandmother, who invented the world’s first folding umbrella – will tell you that before they succeeded, they failed repeatedly, often spectacularly. But the fear of failing again didn’t stop them from coming up with new ways to succeed. How different might the world look today if Steve Jobs had decided just to play it safe and get a nine-to-five in tech support when, back in 1985, he was famously fired from Apple for being ‘too risky’?

Personally, I don’t like the word ‘failure’. I prefer to think of it as a first attempt at learning, an important achievement on the path to success. As an aspiring young singer who was told by both friends and teachers that I’d never make it out of the chorus and into the spotlight, I learnt first-hand that the people who tell you you’re going to fail and should probably give up aren’t always right, no matter how kind and honest their intentions.

Of course, great ideas aren’t worth the paper they’re scribbled on if they can’t be reasonably implemented and their value clearly articulated. But my advice to business leaders and CEO’s who want to create a culture of innovation for success is to be brave, embrace failure, learn from your mistakes and never say ‘never’ to a great idea simply because it’s risky.

Tania de Jong AM is a leading Australian soprano, social entrepreneur, innovation expert and international keynote speaker on leadership, creativity and innovation. She is the founder of Creative Universe, Creativity Australia, acclaimed singing group Pot-pourri and The Song Room.  

She is also the Diva in Residence and Executive Producer of next month’s Creative Innovation Global conference.