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Four Reasons Why Your Idea Program Is Not Working

Corporate culture: It has been lauded, heralded, and largely supported. But what many of the organizations who are used to hearing about “corporate culture” do not know is that culture plays a significant role when it comes to innovation in the workplace. Having a toxic culture can put your business at a costly standstill. Having a supportive culture, however, can drive your business forward in phenomenal ways you never envisioned.

In this post, we will look at four reasons why your idea program is not working and how you can tackle each of these hurdles through addressing your culture.

1. Deflecting Risk Averse Culture

Since the recession, companies have recoiled significantly and are less willing to extend themselves as they may have in the past. In terms of innovation, this is a major hurdle, one that often cripples businesses.

A culture of innovation is one where employees are encouraged to take calculated risks (“calculated” being the operative word) and to try to have these ideas implemented for the benefit of the company. A company that is risk averse, however, will continually shut down these ideas, being unwilling to invest in anything that differs from the norm.

A stagnant company leads to stagnating results. The businesses of today who are willing to change up how they operate and meet the demands of the twenty-first century are going to succeed. Those who continually fear change, however, are going to continue to miss opportunities which will cost them money, their reputation, and very likely their business.


2. Extensive Development Time

Delays in a project substantially decrease its probability of success—and it can also get expensive. The Standish Group recently revealed that only 2.5 percent of the two hundred companies included in their study were able to complete 100 percent of their projects. For those who are planning on running an IT project, these numbers get even worse. Harvard Business Review found that one in six IT projects overrun projected costs by 200 percent, and overrun 70 percent of the time in general.

There are a number of reasons why these delays happen: lack of leadership involvement, smaller projects are set aside for bigger and “more important” projects, and so on. One thing that everyone in business knows is that the more lengthy the delay in starting a project, the less likely that idea will be implemented. The result: less cost-effective business practices and reduction of business growth.

3. Problem with Idea Selection

A problem with many idea programs is that leadership receives too many suggestions. This is not the core issue, however—the real problem is that leadership often has no idea how to funnel, curate, and decide which ideas are worth pursuing and which may be best left for another time. To make matters more complicated, those in leadership often fight over which ideas hold more value than the next. When the leaders are not aligned, there is a conflict of interest. When there is a conflict of interest, innovation comes to a halt.

4. Inability to Measure the ROI of Innovation

Some items in business are inherently easier to measure than others. Unfortunately, innovation is not one of them. As the Capitalist’s Dilemma shares, leadership is using the wrong metrics in order to track and measure innovation. This leads to a number of issues, including:

  • A decreased number of new ideas;
  • Reduction of idea quality;
  • Less efficient implementation; and
  • Less successful results deriving from the implementation of these ideas

Measuring the ROI of innovation can be trickier than other aspects of the business (but using the Service Profit Model can help). What a business chooses to use as a measurement for ROI can also differ from organization to organization. Generally speaking, measurements can be broken down into two sections: input metrics and output metrics.

Below are a few examples of each:

Input Metrics

  • The percentage of capital that has been invested in you organization’s innovation activities.
  • The percentage of “outside” versus “inside” inputs to the innovation process.
  • The number of new products/services/businesses that have been launched in new markets over the past year.

Output Metrics

  • Actual vs. targeted break even time (or “BET”).
  • Percentage of revenue from products of services introduced over the past X amount of years.
  • Any royalty and/or licensing income from patents/intellectual property.

Organizations are constantly plagued by one or more of these four issues that paralyze idea management programs, yet only a handful are able to escape them. As much as smart managers may attempt to devise solutions, no solution will take root without there being a solid foundation that supports a culture of innovation.



Harness the power of employee ideas.