Innovation is critically important to success in today’s business world, and leaders across industries are recognizing this. Some companies built their success on innovation — it is the foundation of their mission.
Innovation giants like Google or 3M may find that it comes naturally, but that is not the norm for the rest of the business world. In fact, while most business leaders agree that innovation is important, few know the keys to managing it. For example, a manager who excels in leading higher performance teams may still neglect the hidden potential of their employees who possess ideas and insights gained from working directly with customers.
As staff try to accommodate innovation goals set by management, they are often ill equipped to overcome challenges and communicate effectively enough to see innovations through, leaving many idea programs to fail before they even get off the ground.
Surveys and research into the reasons for why idea programs fail reveal predictable patterns. If we can predict these pitfalls to innovation, then we can take steps to prevent them. So what are some of the key obstacles to successful innovation?
It is easy to look outside of the business and find an array of reasons for failure. The economy fluctuates, competition is fierce, and employers can always point to skill shortages or lack of talent in the employee population. However, according to a BCG study on innovation, some of the biggest obstacles that businesses are facing actually come from within the company. For example:
- Risk adverse culture
- Extensive development time
- Difficulty selecting the best ideas
- Inability to measure performance
These obstacles can not only prevent you from moving forward on the next new project, but also, they can prevent a company from taking advantage of opportunities that could lead to sustainable success in the future. Fortunately, they are within the organization, and business leaders can and have successfully overcome these obstacles.
It is not rocket science: you first need to identify which of the factors are most likely to hurt your innovation efforts and then take steps to address these factors. For example, if you know you have a risk adverse culture, then you can try proven strategies to create a culture shift, to embrace innovation.
If development times are too long, maybe you need to assess the processes and see which activities add value and use business process management to streamline the innovation process. If your team has trouble selecting ideas that are effective, then perhaps you need to implement an idea software system to filter through the clutter and find the next gem of an idea.
Are you able to measure innovation performance? If not, there are proven metrics and assessment approaches that could help.
These obstacles are real, and they can stifle innovation. However, if innovation matters to you, then it is just a matter of seeing which obstacles are holding you back, applying the right strategies, and assessing the success, repeating this process until you find the approaches that work for you.