I don’t believe innovation ever happens in teams where members are frightened of making a fool out of themselves. To innovate, someone needs to be prepared to step out of the same and when you step out, at first, it’s very possible you will step in the wrong direction. Or perhaps you will express your move in a way that doesn’t quite make sense to people.

When this happens, it’s very likely people will react in any of the following ways: look mildly mystified and move on; drown you out; cut you off or out; ridicule the idea; ridicule you; laugh it off or (worse) smile patronisingly.

If this happens, you will be less inclined to step out again; at least not here with these people. Born innovators might carry on chipping away; not caring what anyone thinks of them; not playing by anyone’s rules but their own. Most people don’t. Most people learn not to do it again and in some cases, they leave. 

So what can a leader do to help people to make fools of themselves and be confident doing it? I would say they have to do it themselves. Accompany the person out on the limb. Ask positive questions to help the person make their point. Crucially, don’t be silent when other members of the team ridicule, cut, laugh. Silence is not silent. It sends its own messages.