5 reasons you’re not innovating

Yes, it is important to know what you need to do to innovate effectively.  However, it is equally, if not more important, to know why your innovation techniques might actually be stifling your innovation initiatives.

Does it feel like your innovation program isn’t quite living up to expectations or its potential?  The problem might be…

  1. You stop participating after the brainstorming session.  Innovation includes implementation and execution.  Imaginatik innovation advisor Sara Husk explains, “There are a lot of people who come up with all kinds of great ideas, but they never follow through.  Innovation doesn’t stop after the brainstorming stage.  It keeps going until the end result is achieved.”
  2. All your ideas are incremental ideas or “horizon one” ideas.  These aren’t big enough.  Starting your innovation with small, basic goals such as cutting costs or improving the product is great, but if you never go for larger, more long-term goals, your innovation program is not going to meet its potential.  Go beyond this; structure your innovations pipeline so that you’re earning those quick wins while also working toward a longer-term challenge.
  3. Failure is still an unacceptable or punished phenomenon.  Don’t let failure remain a taboo within your organization.  Instead, learn and grow from it.  “Really innovative companies learn from the things they have failed at,” Husk explains.  You can even celebrate it; make failure a data point by giving awards for the innovation letdowns that teach you the most.
  4. You have no sense of urgency.  People tend to get off track when they wait for perfection or spend too much time trying to perfect their ideas before putting them into effect.  Organizations don’t have that much time: “Everything changes so quickly that you just need to get out there and try it,” says Husk.  Think about the 80-20 ratio; don’t wait for 100% perfection.  Go for “good enough” rather than perfect so that you don’t fall behind.
  5. Your leadership is too involved, or not involved enough.  Leadership should set the tone for innovation by providing guidance, but don’t let it hover.  The role of an innovation leader should be to gather a group of talented people and provide resources, suggestions, and encouragement.  When innovation leaders become helicopter parents, everyone involved in the innovation initiative may develop a “fear of providing the wrong answer,” ending in a stifled effort.

One Comment

  1. Terrence Doeberl
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    During my 30+ years of experience in new product development, strategy & change management, the reasons for lack of innovation I’ve personally seen most frequently are:
    – Sr. Staff need for guaranteed outcomes
    – Fear of failure (even partial)
    – Lack of follow through (per your mention)
    – Lack of tight focus and steady organizational commitment

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