What Keeps Organizations From Innovation ?

Roger Smith shared an interesting post a number of years ago in Fast Company: Can Innovation be Bought?. His was an interesting angle to consider that senior management's lack of familiarity or confidence with external innovations may be a barrier to their implementation. Though I see this sort of thing all of the time.

But is it possible that the managers citing this lack of confidence are putting a new face on the old "not invented here" mentality? Many companies using "closed" models for innovation have long used it as a defense to maintaining their internal staffs and large R&D budgets. P&G and others are showing the true power of open innovation models in the market today.

So what are the other potential barriers to innovation? Strategos, Gary Hamel's consulting firm, released a survey with senior executives in 2004 on the key barriers to effective innovation. Some interesting statistics in that study regarding the top factors cited as barriers...

  • Short term focus/ focus on operations (63%)
  • Lack of time, resources or staff (52%)
  • Lack of systematic innovation process (33%)
  • Leadership expects payoff sooner than is expected (31%)
  • Management incentives not structured to reward innovation (31%)

Also interesting that only 15% cited "we don't know how to think out of the box" as a barrier to innovation. Now because managers think its so doesn't make it so. This survey reflects beliefs not necessarily realities - a case in point being the excuse of having inadequate resources to innovate. That is as much a reflection of folks not really doing what they should be doing.

Truth is there's a direct relationship between innovation and failure. The key killer of innovation is the lack of tolerance for failing - a necessity for innovation which directly reflects an organization's culture. Watch no risk no innovation.