Unlocking Innovation (Part III of VI): How to take the risk, without the risk

This is a section of a six-part series of articles that focuses on unpacking the complexity of innovation and showing the reality that innovation is attainable to everyone. Our goal from this series is to spark conversations and get people to look at innovation, creativity and leadership from a different perspective.

Innovation, a necessary risk

As we all know innovation is a hot topic. Businesses are constantly trying to innovate to advance, post secondary are all trying to be on the cutting edge of new technologies, and communities realize that to be sustainable they need to find new and better ways to grow. Everyone understands that committing to innovation is the key to evolution, but to many people it seems precarious, complicated, and difficult. It is true that innovation and change are challenging and sometimes quite complex, but the part that seems to be the main barrier as to why people do not invest in it is – it appears to be too risky. To most, it’s the opportunity cost that stops them; if we are committing time, effort, and energy to try to innovate, what are we neglecting, avoiding and missing out on? Especially because efforts to innovate are not a guaranteed win, there is a lot of trial and error and experimentation when it comes to innovation. So how do we make a commitment to innovation less risky?

Maximum Utility

Maximum Utility is a term we use a lot at Roman 3, and it is the foundation of our business development strategy. We mostly refer to it when we are planning new projects and exploring new avenues for collaborative partnerships. To us, Maximum Utility is when you strategically and efficiently coordinate your efforts so that every effort, every action, will achieve multiple outcomes. We all see this concept everyday in little ways. For example; when we make a grocery list to go shopping once a week, we are using our time wisely to get multiple things, instead of driving to the store 3 times a day to get individual items. We use Maximum Utility when we are carpooling with our co-workers, we all need to go there, so instead of everyone driving, we are using our time and resources efficiently to achieve multiple outcomes (each of us getting to work). Understanding and using Maximum Utility is obviously not a new or ground-breaking concept but to our teams and for our efforts, planning with it and being intentional about it, are critical to the ways we approach innovation and look to develop a long-term and sustainable impact for our clients and projects.

Maximum Utility in Action

Some effective ways to use Maximum Utility can be when evaluating new opportunities or considering new projects. Our main question is always: Can we extend our reach and the impact of our efforts, without increasing our workload and costs, or deplete our resources? For example, in our work through Roman 3 Collaborations, we are managing the economic development for a regional municipality. Through that work we are constantly working with groups and individuals looking to create change in their communities. This requires us to provide leadership to help other work together and provide structures and tools to make collaborative processes easier. When we first started doing this, we found we had done a lot of research around collaborative business models, best practice is structuring business groups, and strategies for collaborative service delivery and collaborative procurement. To put Maximum Utility into action, we decided our best strategy would be to put a little extra effort into our research. We created some tools and wrote an article series on Collaboration so that we could have shareable information, practical methods, reference guides, and implementation strategies that would be of benefit to us, as well as our partners and clients. We use these articles and tools constantly. Referencing them in meetings and presentation, allowing us to follow up by sending the articles for reference and more information. We routinely book speaking engagements to share our tools and expertise, and we have business planning tools for future projects that allow us to be strategic in our approach. Without intentionally using Maximum Utility from the beginning, we wouldn’t have put in the small extra effort to develop these tools, guides, and resources that we use both internally and externally. Without Maximum Utility, we would have just spent the time on our research and left the data with the one or two projects that needed it. Instead, we have tools we can share, expertise we can offer, we have gained new topics to speak on, and bought in new projects that are looking for our involvement based on our collaborative approaches.

Less Risk, More Reward

If you can find ways to try new things, experiment, and be open to failure; which will not set back your mandate, you have created the fertile soil for innovation. Now, large and organization-wide innovation cannot sustainably happen from the side of your desk, and we are not saying that you can change the world without sticking your neck out and taking risks. What you can do is explore new and innovative ideas with little risk if you are intentional and strategic in your approach. It’s important to state that there is still a need to dedicate time, resources and take risks to create meaningful innovations. Going back to our Collaboration articles and tools, once the data was collected, we had to dedicate time, money and HR to getting the articles written and promoted, and to get the tools vetting and ready for implementation. There was still risk, but the risk was on the execution phase not on the creation phase. By taking away the creation risk, we dedicate more time and resources with confidence to the execution phase, which inherently made our efforts more successful.

The Takeaway

As an organization, you owe it to yourself to dedicate time and resources to innovate. By intentionally looking for opportunities to use Maximum Utility you can chase innovation with more vigour and grit by taking a lot of the exploration and creation risk out of the equation. If you can look for many ways to win out of a single effort, you can create an environment that embraces exploration of new ideas and expanding your impact and value to those you serve.


Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support reach out to us at info@roman3.ca