Studies show that 90% of executives believe the long-term success of their organization depends on innovation. However, research also shows that most employees feel their organization isn’t really fostering innovation. This disconnect reveals that there are barriers to innovation that aren’t being addressed.
Sometimes these things aren’t addressed because the right people in the organization aren’t fully committed to innovation. Sometimes it’s because the culture is hardened – too many people are focused on the “way it’s always been done”. Sometimes it’s simply because daily workers are getting tasks done, and there are no dedicated resources available to review processes and promote new ideas.
Regardless, innovation is vital to success. Here are 10 barriers to innovation that organizations commonly face, and how they can be addressed.
It’s Not My Job
This common barrier to innovation involves no one wanting to take responsibility for reviewing the way things are done and suggesting new ideas. Generally, managers see people with this attitude as lazy, but there are usually other forces at work. Consider whether your culture punishes failure harshly, and what happens to those who go out on a limb. If risk-taking isn’t rewarded, your employees are not going to put their neck out for a new idea.
But it’s My Idea
Another common barrier to innovation is worrying about idea ownership. If your company culture only rewards individuals, rather than teams, than everyone involved in a new idea will want ownership. This can cause conflict and eliminate innovation. Instead, focus on rewarding teams and groups that work together to bring ideas forward. This will help reduce the focus on ownership.
Lack of Funding
Innovation is only helpful if it’s implemented. Lack of funding for implementation is a barrier to innovation that exists in many organizations. Be sure that management is committed to funding ideas before beginning an innovation project. Then, remember to report back to management with data, including return on investment. That way they’ll continue to support future innovation projects.
Innovation projects often generate a lot of data, especially if they’re done with crowdsourcing. Without proper planning, unanalyzed data can become a major barrier to innovation. Make sure you have a plan and a system for handling the large amount of data that comes in.
Lack of Follow Through
Sometimes new ideas don’t get implemented due to lack of funding. Sometimes there is just a lack of will to make changes. Innovation isn’t just about coming up with ideas, it’s about implementing those ideas. A lack of follow through is a major barrier and you’ll need to have a champion that’s willing to stay on top of every project.
Already Busy – There’s No Time!
Too often, organizations aren’t willing to provide dedicated employees to innovation projects. This results in employees struggling to balance innovation with their existing workload. Not surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of new ideas that come from that. When staff is already busy, you need a dedicated team for innovation.
Not a Priority
Obviously, never getting started is a barrier to innovation. Some executives are willing to say that innovation as a good idea, but they never actually prioritize it above other activities. As a result, innovation never gets the budget and staff needed to make a difference. Include innovation as a quarterly priority in strategic planning sessions to ensure it stays top-of-mind.
No Project Ownership
A project team should have a clear leader, and each member should have specific responsibilities. If innovation projects are limited to brainstorming days with no accountability for action, there won’t be change. The project needs clear ownership in order to be prioritized and successful.
Lack of Key Stakeholder Contributions
No innovation project happens in a vacuum. Key stakeholders need to be consulted, and they need to contribute their ideas and perspectives. If this doesn’t happen, either ideas are generated but don’t have key supporters or the ideas generated aren’t practical in the organization.
Don’t Rock the Boat
We saved the biggest barrier to innovation for last; the lack of willingness to rock the boat. In some organizations, employees are happy with everything being the way that it is. If someone tries to innovate, they are shot down quickly. There’s no support for change because no one wants to rock the boat. They prefer the status quo. Focusing on creating a culture of innovation will help.
Unfortunately, organizations that fall victim to these barriers to innovation will see their overall growth and success severely limited. Over time, the organization will likely fail. Innovation isn’t a “nice to have”, it’s a necessity. If your organization faces these barriers to innovation, work with key leaders and stakeholders to tear them down. Your success depends on it.
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