(From Forbes)-My colleague PJ Chan has worked with many of Kotter International’s most successful clients. Here she shares a perspective that helps the leaders she works with to challenge their ways of thinking, and reveal new possibilities to which they’d previously been unable to see. 

Today there was a fresh new Hemispheres Magazine on my early morning United Airlines flight. Let me preface: I am not an employee, paid representative, or linked in any other way with the airline magazine. However, reading this magazine is my guilty pleasure. I look forward to a fresh new copy (with an empty crossword puzzle) on my first flight of each month. The headline “The Upside of Unspeakable Ideas – Courting Controversy at the Sydney Opera House” recently caught my eye.

Apparently there is an annual festival of “Dangerous Ideas.” Without repeating all three paragraphs, I’ll summarize – they do mean dangerous! One of the talks will cover, “A Killer Can Be A Good Neighbor.” The goal of the event is to discuss ideas outside the mainstream, getting people out of their comfort zones and challenged with new ways of thinking. You may respond with “Wow, how cool!” or you could react with a “That’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard in my life!” Your reaction reveals where your thinking lies on the spectrum of open-ness to new ideas.

While I am a great proponent of safety, I believe that in both life and business we need to think, share, and discuss more dangerous ideas. Talk about a way to encourage innovation! We all know innovation is still a huge buzzword in business, yet we dance around taking the time, effort, energy, and risks in order to achieve it in our organizations.


We are afraid to bring together people from all areas of the business and give them the freedom and flexibility to share and discuss the “dangerous” ideas in a safe environment. What are we afraid will happen? Is it about loss of control? Fear of the unknown? Concern we won’t look like we have all the answers? Where does this fear of risk come from and – more importantly – how can we overcome it?

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