May 13, 2009
56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail

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Innovation is in these days. The word is on the lips of just about every CEO, CFO, CIO, and anyone else with a three-letter acronym after their name. As a result, many companies are launching all kinds of "innovation initiatives" -- hoping to stir the soup. This is understandable. But it is also, far too often, very disappointing.

Innovation initiatives sound good, but usually don't live up to the expectations. The reasons are many.

What follows are 56 of the most common ones -- organizational obstacles we've observed in the past 22 years that get in the way of a company really raising the bar for innovation.

See which ones are familiar to YOU. Then, sit down with your Senior Team... CEO... innovation committee, or best friend and jump start the process of going beyond these obstacles. Let the games begin...

1. "Innovation" framed as an initiative, not the normal way of doing business
2. Absence of a clear definition of what "innovation" really means
3. Innovation not linked to company's existing vision or strategy
4. No sense of urgency
5. Workforce is suffering from "initiative fatigue"

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6. CEO does not fully embrace the effort
7. No compelling vision or reason to innovate
8. Senior Team not aligned
9. Key players don't have the time to focus on innovation
10.Innovation champions are not empowered

11. Decision making processes are non-existent or fuzzy
12. Lack of trust
13. Risk averse culture
14. Overemphasis on cost cutting or incremental improvement
15. Workforce ruled by past assumptions and old mental models

16. No process in place for funding new projects
17. Not enough pilot programs in motion
18. Senior Team not walking the talk
19. No company-wide process for managing ideas
20. Too many turf wars. Too many silos.

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21. Analysis paralysis
22. Reluctance to cannibalize existing products and services
23. NIH (not invented here) syndrome
24. Funky channels of communication
25. No intrinsic motivation to innovate

26. Unclear gates for evaluating progress
27. Mind numbing bureaucracy
28. Unclear idea pitching processes
29. Lack of clearly defined innovation metrics
30. No accountability for results

31. No way to celebrate quick wins
32. Poorly facilitated meetings
33. No training to unleash individual or team creativity
34. Voo doo evaluation of ideas
35. Inadequate sharing of best practices

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36. Lack of teamwork and collaboration
37. Unclear strategy for sustaining the effort
38. Innovation Teams meet too infrequently
39. Middle managers not on board
40. Ineffective rollout of the effort to the workforce

41. Lack of tools and techniques to help people generate new ideas
42. Innovation initiative perceived as another "flavor of the month"
43. Individuals don't understand how to be a part of the effort
44. Diverse inputs or conflicting opinions not honored
45. Imbalance of left-brain and right brain thinking

46. Low morale
47. Over-reliance on technology
48. Failure to secure sustained funding
49. Unrealistic timeframes
50. Failure to consider issues associated with scaling up

51. Inability to attract talent to risky new ventures
52. Failure to consider commercialization issues
53. No rewards or recognition program in place
54. No processes in place to get fast feedback
55. No real sense of what your customers really want or need
56. Company hiring process screens out potential innovators

Others we may have missed?

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Photo by Tuli Panka

Thanks to Barry Gruenberg, Bill Shockley, Chuck Frey, and Farrell Reynolds for their sage input.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at May 13, 2009 12:17 PM

Comments

Great list here!! Number 17 is huge in my experience. Number 38 is odd in that I agree wholeheartedly in Number 1. When a true culture of innovation exists, Innovation Teams (at least as I'm understanding them) are every team!

Thanks for a great article!

Posted by: plish [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2009 01:47 AM

This is a great list and covers all of the topics but I think you left out one key word fear.

Too many organisations instill negative fear in their people. This encourages the status quo, stops creative thinking / expression and drives risk aversion.

The converse of this is positive fear which acknowledges that biggest risk is standing still and that if we don't change it someone else will and that it only.

I realise that these are slightly redundant points but I've found that an emotive word like fear makes the problem more about real people and not abstract organisations.

Posted by: gary [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 18, 2009 06:52 PM

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