Common Innovation Pitfalls

barriers-to-innovationRecently, IdeaScale’s own Jeff Wong wrote about how he knows first-time innovators will be successful. Unfortunately, there’s also a flip side to that coin. Here are a handful of common mistakes I see first-time innovators making.

1. No communications plan. A successful innovation effort requires a well-thought-out, cradle-to-grave communications plan. Build pre-launch buzz, hit the launch hard, maintain excitement throughout, report on the results, and take victory laps. It’s not enough to simply announce the launch and hope the campaign’s momentum will drive itself. It takes effort throughout, and that all starts with a plan.

2. No goals set or wrong goals set. A lack of goal-setting in and of itself is egregious. However, what I see more often is setting the wrong goals. Number of ideas collected is a good first step, but if you can’t show what those ideas have done for the organization, you’re not speaking leadership’s language. Focus on outcomes that effect real change. In other words, don’t focus on number of ideas collected, focus on number of ideas implemented and their quantifiable positive effects on the organization.

3. In that same vein, no thinking past ideation. I often see first-time innovators bit by the crowdsourcing bug, and they come to us to scratch that itch. “I heard about this crowdsourcing thing. How can I get me some?” Problem is, ideation — or the simple posting of and voting on the crowd’s ideas — is only the first step. It’s determining what you’ll do with those ideas and how they’ll change your organization for the better that will help build a truly sustainable innovation program.

4. Not developing a diverse incentivization program, or not having any incentivization program at all. People are motivated in a variety of different ways. Thinking through and employing an incentivization program commensurate with that diversity will help maximize and maintain engagement.

5. No sincere commitment from the top down to a true culture change. This one is probably the most important, because you can do 1-4 right, but if this isn’t in place, no innovation program will last. One of my journalism professors once talked about the impending demise — or at best, adaptation — of newspapers as a slow-burning process, “It takes a long time to stop a steaming ship.” The same is true of an organizational culture change. It doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why a commitment from leadership to truly driving this change is so important. If this commitment isn’t sincere and deeply rooted, funding will falter, morale will sink, and the program will flounder.

Those are just a few of the most common ones I see. There are many more that can halt an innovation program in its tracks. Download this infographic to see a few more.

But fret not, friends! You’re not alone. We’re here to help. We, too, have fallen victim to these common pitfalls over the years. However, we’ve learned from them, and because of that, we’ve made significant improvements in our offerings to help you avoid them: We’ve taken a step back and beefed up our onboarding process, we’ve bolstered our offerings to include innovation management and design-thinking workshops, and one of our key company goals this year — from sales and marketing to product — is to be more outcome-driven rather than getting caught up in the minutiae of building out features for their own sake.

One of the main principles of open innovation is that failure is part of the process. However, the key is to fail fast, and to learn from it. We’ve all failed in our pursuit of innovation perfection. Let’s learn from it, recalibrate and try again.

This blog post is part of a series authored by IdeaScale employees. It showcases how they’re thinking about crowdsourcing and innovation as part of their daily routine. Feel free to ask questions or make comments.

This post is by Matt Paulson, Innovation Architect at IdeaScale.

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