Three Issues that Stifle Innovation, and How to Overcome Them


innovation1As an innovation leader, you know how important a culture of sustained innovation is to the survival of your organization. However, there are many factors that can challenge the innovation process. These issues may come from team members, executives, or the general culture of the organization. Here some common challenges that companies deal with, and solutions for overcoming them.

1. The culture of the company is to keep doing things the way they’ve been done in the past – there is a lack of curiosity and eagerness to change.

If this sounds like your organization, you know that lack of inspiration can be a frustrating situation. Determining a vision for the future of the company is the first step to tackling this problem. Set quantitative goals, such as bringing one new product per year to market, and decide the people, facilities, and resources you will need to achieve those goals. The new product development (NPD) process consists of a clear action plan, with regular meetings to instill accountability. Making NPD meetings mandatory, and monitoring progress, is the only way to ensure productivity and that the plan will stay on track.

2. Innovation attempts in the past have failed, causing team members to be hesitant about taking risks.

This is certainly a common problem in organizations, as the success ratio for new products is actually very low. A study on the grocery business (allbusiness.com) pegged the success rate for new product entries at just 1%. Without risk, there can be no innovation, so it is important for the innovation leader to invite all ideas from all sectors of the organization. Encourage risk-taking and manage failure as a learning experience, as it is an inevitable part of the innovation process. Communicate with team members to establish trust that failures will not result in punitive measures.

3. Ideation sessions lack creativity, as team members have their “day jobs” to attend to.

With routine responsibilities of the daily workplace, innovation can easily be put on the backburner. Choosing a diverse group for ideation sessions can provide just the right amount of social tension needed for a quality outcome. Break up teams and select people who do not often work together in order to minimize group think. Vary the format of meetings to avoid predictable times and places – perhaps hold a meeting at a customer’s office to take people out of their comfort zone. Creating new environments for a diverse group will garner fresh perspective.

These scenarios and solutions were based on the ten imperatives by Robert Brands to create and sustain “New” in business. For more tips on successfully achieving innovation, see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.”

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