Tag: open innovation

5 Valuable Innovation Lessons Companies can Learn from Google

Google didn’t put the world at a fingertip without innovation.

Is there a company that more perfectly defines modern life than Google? What was once a tiny search engine company is now one of the vastest corporations on the planet, offering information about everything from how to get to a new city to the best places to eat when you get there to its history in one handy package. So how did it achieve such innovative heights?

It Isn’t Afraid To Fail

It’s easy to focus on Google’s successes, but let’s be real here: Google has failed a lot, painfully and publicly. Google Glass, Google+, Google Buzz, and now Google’s clunky earbuds are just a handful of examples that saw the company either venture into a new industry and fail or not consider the effects of their choices. But Google has learned from these failures: Google Glass doesn’t make a great consumer product, for example, but for industrial applications it’s perfect.

It Doesn’t Look For Perfection

Even Google’s flagship product isn’t perfect. It’s pretty easy to throw off Google’s search engine if you try hard enough, and Googlers have spent years fixing all the flaws and mistakes that have turned up. However, the key point is that Google has fixed these problems as they’ve come up, and they never make the mistake of saying that their latest product is “done.” Everything Google does is a work in progress, and that approach means it can get better and better.

It Has A Mission

Every Google product, successful or not successful, starts with a specific mission in mind. Google’s search engine is designed to be the most accurate and precise tool for finding web pages and other internet content. Google’s Pixel phones are designed to show off the features and abilities of its Android operating system. YouTube is designed to make video universally accessible, although maybe Google’s mission should be to clean out those comment sections. Whatever Google is doing, there’s a clearly defined objective that the company’s team works towards.

What can we learn from Google?

It Looks Outside Google

As anybody who studies innovation can tell you, the best innovation happens with both internal and external teams. Google has taken this lesson to heart, and looks outside every project, both internally and externally, to expand on its ideas. For example, Google, when studying “smart” textiles, teamed up with Levi’s to create a “wired” version of the commuter jacket. Levi’s was able to share institutional knowledge about making rough-wearing, durable clothing as Google explored integrating it into fashion. You might never wear a “digital” jacket, but you will see the shared knowledge turn up elsewhere.

It Encourages Side Projects

People like to pursue their passions, and sometimes, those passions fall a bit outside their work life. They’re related, but they’ve got too many projects and too many other demands on their time. Google has attempted to tap this by encouraging employees to spend 20% of their time on passion projects. This can range from exploring how technology can encourage social good to just neat new ideas for products that interest people. Either way, they’re letting their employees stretch their intellectual muscles just that much more.

Google is an innovative company, in other words, because it embraces innovation across the board. If you want to be more like Google, get the Innovation Starter Kit.

How is Open Innovation Different from Co-Creation?

When innovating, do you stick to what you know or the wider world?

“Open innovation” and “co-creation” are words you hear a lot when building an innovation strategy, and they also seem to be words that most people poorly define. To some, they’re interchangeable. To others, they’re wildly different. The truth is that they can feel similar, but their differences are a matter of boundaries.

What Is Co-Creation?

Let’s start with co-creation. As the name implies, it’s innovation created by working together. Co-creation draws from your pool of employees, contractors, venture capital firms, customers, pretty much anybody who has some sort of stake in your business. Co-creation, by its nature, is more of an internal process. For example, if you’re drawing on co-creation, you’d ensure that there was an easily accessible internal platform so that everyone with access could share ideas, comment on them, and address challenges or opportunities those ideas present.

The boundary, though, is that it’s limited to the stakeholders, whether they’re the interns making coffee or the executive boardroom. This has its advantages in that you can draw from your own pool of talent who understand how the company works and has experience in your industry. But it’s a bit of a drawback at the same time since there’s only so much distance we have from our jobs. Have you ever tried to get somebody who isn’t directly affected by or involved in your industry excited about it? It’s possible! But it’s a lot easier if you already have that base of knowledge. This can be something of a sharp contrast to open innovation.

What Is Open Innovation?

As the name implies, open innovation is about letting everyone in, whether they’re a twenty-year employee or somebody who just wonders why your industry does things this way when this other way seems so much easier. The boundaries are much broader and it’s often a public process—think the difference between an internal pitch of a project to the board versus taking that project to Kickstarter.

It’s all about the team.

Open innovation has its downsides; if you open the door to anybody, inevitably you’ll get both well-meaning people who won’t help and people who just want to heckle your business model. But it has the valuable advantage of perspective; open innovation invites in people who don’t know the way it’s always been done, and that allows them to view challenges with fresh eyes. The longer we spend in an industry, the more we tend to focus on the details, and that means we can miss the bigger things.

Do I Have To Choose?

If it seems co-creation can be tucked fairly easily inside open innovation, that’d be fundamentally correct. The only effective difference between the two is the fence you draw around it, really. That said, there are good reasons for that fence sometimes; if you design nuclear missiles, you probably don’t want to put those plans out there on the internet. But you should create those boundaries with the understanding that there are advantages and disadvantages, and if one isn’t cutting it, you may want to try the other. When you’re ready to start building a better innovation platform, whether open to all or internal, get the Innovation Starter Kit.

Seven Critical Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t get frustrated with your crowdsourcing campaign.

Crowdsourcing and open innovation are great ideas. But like any great ideas, great results need smart execution. Too many ideas fall into a crowdsourcing gap, so here are the problems to avoid.

Unfocused Strategy

By far the biggest problem is people have an idea and decide, vaguely, to throw crowdsourcing at the problem. But throwing an idea at the wall to see what sticks isn’t going to work. You need a clear, detailed strategy before you start any crowdsourcing campaign. If you’re planning to expand your ideas, write a very clear outline of how you expect to progress, just like any other project.

Unclear Goals

Another surprising problem many crowdsourcing campaigns have is that they aren’t entirely sure how they want to use crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing will be tough if your crowd doesn’t understand why you need them. If you don’t have clear goals, your campaign will stall before it even starts. Set realistic goals; know exactly what you want, what your definition of success for the campaign is, and what you’ll do once the campaign has been wrapped.

Choosing Crowdsourcing Instead Of Open Innovation

Crowdsourcing and open innovation are two very different things. Crowdsourcing is a public, open idea pulling from the entire world, or at least the part of the world from which you can gain attention. Open innovation is a more limited process that draws from your company. Using the right type will help make your campaign successful and it will also generally make the campaign smoother. So look closely at how you’ll implement it.

Choosing The Wrong Crowd

Another factor that can derail your campaign is catering to the wrong crowd. Sometimes your consumers need to weigh in on a campaign. At other times, your business customers will be your primary audience. Any crowdsourcing program needs to target the right audience, or you’ll find yourself with no sourcing crowd.

Don’t make these mistakes with your crowdsourcing campaign.

Not Rallying Support

Crowdsourcing campaigns need to be supported not just by the crowd but also from the company running the campaign. Any crowdsourcing campaign can experience pushback at the beginning, sometimes legitimate, such as lawyers raising questions about IP law, and just naysaying about crowdsourcing in general. Before you launch any campaign, get your stakeholders on board. Address concerns where you are able, and get everyone on board.

Going It Alone

Another common mistake is assuming that you have to do absolutely everything, from building the platform to determining the rewards you’re offering and making sure they get delivered as promised. You not only don’t have to do everything alone, you probably won’t have the time. Working with a platform designed for crowdsourcing from the ground up can ensure a better campaign.

Ignoring Marketing

One of the big mistakes of crowdsourcing is assuming that the crowd will also take care of the marketing. In truth, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll catch and hold the attention of your crowd, instead of counting on word of mouth.

As you can see, crowdsourcing is not a tool to be used lightly. Before jumping in, know what you’re doing. To start building your successful crowdsourcing campaign, join the IdeaScale community.

Crowdsourcing vs. Open Innovation: What’s the Difference?

Open innovation vs. crowdsourcing can be a tough call.

What’s the difference between crowdsourcing and open innovation? It can feel like a simple question, but it’s a bit more complex than you might expect. Here’s a deeper look at how these two concepts differ.

Crowdsourcing Vs. Open Innovation

The key difference between the two is the audience. With open innovation, you might reach out to your entire company, and sometimes friendly rivals in the same industry, to share ideas and get perspective on something. Crowdsourcing is when you open it up to the public, usually starting with your customer base, to get ideas or to perform tasks. Both can be incredibly powerful, but which is right for which situation?

Who Are The Stakeholders?

It’s always worth starting with who’s got skin in the game. For example, some ideas, like internal process changes, need to be a matter of open innovation, because they can touch many different departments. If, for example, you’re changing how you manufacture something, it’s not just the design team who should weigh in, but the departments handling the nitty-gritty of making things, shipping them, and finding parts.

If you’re consumer-facing, and one of the key stakeholders is your consumers, then crowdsourcing is in the mix. You’re likely getting ideas and comments from your customers anyway, so why not put them to use? By asking for their input, your customers know you’re listening, and that’s crucial to your company’s success.

An idea can come from anywhere.

What’s The Challenge?

Another factor to consider is the challenge you’re trying to overcome. Crowdsourcing takes work when the challenge is abstract or hard to explain outside your industry, so open innovation might make more sense to develop creative solutions. For example, it’s difficult to make international shipping problems or ergonomics fascinating to the wider public, as a rule, although the right explanation can go a long way.

But if it’s a challenge with a hook, or one where your customers will have to regularly deal with the answer you come up with, it’s worth involving outside parties to see what they think. It can be as simple as asking “So, what would you like to see with the next release?” or asking your customers how they use your products. Sometimes you find surprising answers that you hadn’t considered or ancillary markets you want to bring forward.

How Will The Solution Be Used?

Another point is to look at where your ultimate implementation will wind up. That both guides you to other stakeholders in the process and also helps determine from whom you most need the input. Just like you’d never take a product to market without at least a little testing, you need to consider how you’re going to use the end result. If it’s got an impact on others, it’s worth getting their perspective.

Finally, remember that this isn’t an either/or proposition. Some ideas start out with open innovation, and over time it becomes clear that crowdsourcing needs to be used to develop at least one aspect of them. And sometimes crowdsourcing is great for creating the raw idea, but then it needs to be shaped and refined by open innovation. As long as you keep the lines of communication, and identify who the stakeholders are, you’ll be able to deliver great ideas. To get started, join an IdeaScale community.

Open Innovation: A critical success factor when you build your innovation journey

We are currently experiencing one of the most significant transformations of our history. In 2030, 75% of the global employees will be “digital natives,” who grew up surrounded by mobile devices, mobile communication and the Internet. “The Internet of Things” has become a reality and more than 1 billion users are online in social networks everyday, influencing products and brands. Their interactive behavioral patterns are constantly shifting and a pre-digital world is now inconceivable.

The process of Digital Transformation is not a new phenomenon – it started many years ago and we understand it as a phenomenon with two major dimensions:

  • Technological change (and digital data processing as one part of it).
  • A large scale transformational process that is comprised of strategic, organizational and socio-cultural changes as the second part.

The combination of these processes has a major impact on the way we work and the way we lead. Digital transformation challenges established new business models and management approaches. Therefore, when we talk about digital transformation, we refer to all the changes that are driven by the rapid development of digital technology.

Most of the companies we talk to have to ask themselves two key questions: What do we need to be successful in the digital age? and How can we change the way we work and the way we interact with our customers, to ensure that we know their needs at all times to respond in an agile and fast way?

As a consequence there is not a “one size fits all” solution – each company needs a unique plan to drive innovation and change successfully. However, there are some proven measures with high impact on revenue growth, cost and time savings and improved effects on customer satisfaction – one of them Open Innovation (also known as crowdsourcing). Recently in the Gartner 2016 CIO Survey, they discovered that crowdsourcing is one of the most effective, leased used digital innovation practices, which correlates with the highest digital return.

I encourage each company (regardless of size and industry) to discover the power that can be generated by working with a crowd to develop and improve solutions and service offerings. That crowd can be comprised of your employees, your clients or your ecosystem. However, successful innovation management goes beyond the research and development department. On the contrary, it aims to involve each individual – a major step towards cultural change in the digital age!

Don’t leave innovation to chance. Digital technology has changed the possibilities open to clients – and they utilize those possibilities by changing the rules. They now expect simple, seamless and personalized user experiences – anytime, anywhere and on any device. A company’s success therefore depends on maintaining a dialogue with the outside world. This goal can only be achieved by working closely together in a sustainable way – crowdsourcing allows you to do just that.

Embedded in your overall corporate strategy, Open Innovation is one key success criteria of your innovation journey and your chance for instant change. Want to learn more? Check this out: Silicon Valley meets Europe – Innovation Tour.

 This blog is a re-post of an original that appeared on Linkedin Pulse

Do You Know What Open Innovation Is?

what is open innovationIn case you hadn’t heard, open innovation was defined by Henry Chesbrough as “a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.”

But what does that really mean? It means that great ideas can come from anywhere. It means that open innovation can happen within an organization (the next great product idea can come from marketing) or it means you can look outside your organization for great ideas, invite them to surface publicly while you work on them internally.

But it really means something else, as well. It means that the process of innovation and competitiveness has been democratized. No company can corner the market on great ideas, because they can come from anywhere. Even small businesses can ask their communities, their customers, their partners for suggestions that could make them the next big start-up.

But what this also means is that companies need to develop new skill sets in order to stay at the edge. They need to become great communicators, they need to become master evaluators, and they need to be able to rapidly implement, test, and optimize great ideas. Even now, 68% of projects never see the light of day which is a lot of work and time poured into things that won’t end up generating revenue. The innovators with the competitive market advantage are going to be the ones that can effectively identify a great idea and build it rapidly, leaving others in the dust.
If you want to learn more about open innovation, download our complimentary Open Innovation Guide.

Open Innovation: Your Guide to Harnessing and Managing the Best Ideas

open-innovation-your-guide-to-harnessing-and-managing-the-best-ideasIf you’re tired of not being able to compete with bigger companies in your industry due to a lack of research and development (R&D) budget, the good news is that’s no longer a problem. Open innovation allows everyone to compete equally, whether their development budget is large or small.

What is Open Innovation

Open innovation is a paradigm shift that assumes organizations can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas to determine as path to market and advance technology. Useful knowledge has become widespread and doesn’t always come from a centralized location within a single business, like the R&D department many organizations employ.  This new way of thinking offers fresh ways to create value and can be used to collect ideas internally from employees or externally from customers or the public.

The act of implementation, of effectively turning new ideas into new processes and products, is now the primary differentiator between success and failure. Businesses still must take the new ideas and processes that are generated and do the hard work of converting promising concepts into products and services that serve customers.

Why Open Innovation is an Equalizer

Historically, internal R&D could be an organization’s greatest asset. Powerhouse companies could keep companies at bay simply because they could invest more in development, and as a result reap the highest profits.

Today, however, the Internet and information economy has changed the story. Businesses, even startups, are able to get ideas to market using a different process which includes crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and implementation only after the market is proven. The boundaries between an organization and its environment have become less distinct, with the market impacting the company and the company impacting the market.

The Shift in R&D

R&D is shifting from internally focused to expansion outside of the department and beyond the organization’s four walls. While you can still have experts in the R&D department, you can also engage employees and external groups to solve any problem.

  • Employee Open Innovation: Princess Cruises gathers thousands of new ideas, engages more than four thousand employees, and manages it all through one innovation team.
  • Employee Open Innovation Dick’s Sporting Goods was a runner-up in the 2016 Innovation awards. The company stays ahead of the curve when developing new products by using open innovation internally. A “Concept Locker” allows employees to submit product ideas, comment on submitted concepts, and win rewards for participating.
  • External Open Innovation: TechSmith Software creates screen capture and recording software that is used in over 30 countries. Through open innovation, they were able to collect hundreds of ideas for improvements and upgrades, collect thousands of votes, and even assist the PR team with responding to inquiries.

How to Use Open Innovation in Your Organization

To use open innovation in your organization, you first must shift the mindset of the leadership and stakeholders to understand the crowdsourcing mindset. Once everyone is on board, consider implementing systems that help you prepare for the complexity of idea management. You’ll need a way to:

  • Collect ideas from a diverse array of sources
  • Organize ideas in one location
  • View and evaluate new ideas
  • Develop ideas
  • Get approvals
  • Communicate progress

Open innovation isn’t optional, it’s an essential way to bring in new ideas at a significantly lower cost than ever before. With the right system, you can gather ideas, process feedback, prepare ideas for implementation, and get funding approval, all within the same platform.

As you seek to implement or improve your open innovation programs, you’ll want to have a process in place to harness and vet the multitude of ideas. Our latest whitepaper shares guidance and best-practices from organizations who do it right. Download it today.

Three Interesting Examples of Crowdsourcing in the Financial Sector

Crowdsourcing can add up in surprising ways.

Can finance benefit from crowdsourcing? While open innovation and crowdsourcing are incredibly popular in other industries, the financial industry is necessarily more conservative about the technology it uses and the consumers it listens to. “Move fast and break things” isn’t the attitude you want from somebody selling you a mortgage, after all. But crowdsourcing has undeniable benefit for the financial industry if done with an eye to its specific needs, and with a little out-of-the-box thinking.

Open Innovation As Customer Service

The financial industry is all about customer service, and thus a good place to start with crowdsourcing is by asking customers about what they want out of their financial services. Banchile Inversiones, for example, put that question to their customers and got back over 100 ideas to improve service, five of which were implemented.

Beyond just getting ideas to improve, this also offers a powerful message: You’re listening to your customers, and you want to hear what they have to say. This alone can make you stand out, as more often than not, even the loudest complaint can be helped simply by ensuring it’s been heard.

Looking Outside The Industry

One of the fundamental powers of crowdsourcing is that it offers a new perspective on your industry, one you might not run into otherwise. In any industry, we’re so focused on the details that stepping out and seeing how they come together in the big picture can be a challenge for even the sharpest and most in touch. By crowdsourcing, and presenting certain problems to the crowd to consider and offer solutions for, you can pull solutions from surprising places that work more effectively than conventional wisdom.

One excellent place to apply this is social responsibility. Standard Bank wanted to both raise the profile of their commitment to clean water in Africa and to find solutions to the thorny problem of sanitation in the Developing World, so they used a crowdsourcing platform to ask for and refine ideas. They provided the structure and some prize money, and in return got an overwhelming response of good ideas that are being used to improve life in some of the toughest places in the world.

Crowdsourcing and finance often make sense.

Community Engagement

Another aspect worth considering is that many finance customers share common ground, which can be both a point of curiosity and a way to offer crowdsourcing as part of your services. HSBC, for example, was working on banking services for expatriates and found that backing a community board where expats could ask questions and offer each other support was invaluable, both for keeping HSBC in expat minds for banking and as a service for their customers. While any message board needs at least some moderation and engagement, it can be highly meaningful and form a relationship well beyond just deposits and withdrawals.

As you can see, crowdsourcing can be used in any number of ways in the finance industry. Whether it’s applied to social responsibility, used to bring customers closer together, or as a tool to improve how your institution and its members communicate, there’s wisdom to be found in crowds. Interested in learning more? Download our Crowdsourcing in Finance white paper now!

The Business Case for Open Innovation

Open innovation means better business.

Making the business case for open innovation can be an uphill climb. And to be fair, if you’ve got the best team, the best technology, and the best ideas, you might wonder why you need it. Here are just a few reasons open innovation is for everyone.

New Perspectives and Ideas

Any organization, however nimble it is, is only as innovative as the perspectives under its tent. That can make it tricky — especially when you’re pushing the outer limits of invention, to push ideas further — and it might also create blind spots. It’s difficult to see all the trees when you’re smack in the middle of the forest. Open innovation changes that by inviting new, fresh approaches to your industry and what you do. A broad, open-minded perspective helps you find places you’re not looking and can offer a global view it can be difficult to achieve otherwise.

Cost Savings

Innovation isn’t necessarily cheap. An idea can take years to come together, from the original concept to the testing to bringing it to market. But opening up your process and seeking out new perspectives might create opportunities to cut down on money and time costs that you might not have considered. New approaches to manufacturing, new technologies that have just come to market and may not have a high profile yet, new materials with mind-blowing potential, or even just simple changes to supply chains and manufacturing approaches can save you millions and turn around ideas faster than you could ever imagine.

Open innovation offers new perspectives.

Competitive Advantage

One of the fundamental truths of business is that the business that does not innovate, or innovates slowly at best, dies. Any company that rests on its laurels is likely to discover that those laurels are being pulled out from under them when they least expect it. But at the same time, innovating can be tough, expensive, or unrewarding. The more open your process is, however, the more minds you have working on your projects, and the clearer, smarter, and faster your innovations will become.

Stronger Customer Relations

Customers want to be heard, and your best customers are often those that speak with you the most. And frequently, products and services can come to market and stumble over unusual uses or ideas that perhaps you didn’t consider. In many cases, it will be your customers who come to you with ideas to make your product better for them, and any innovation system should bring those customers in and ask them questions. What do they want to see? Why do they use what you produce the way they do? This not only helps you refine your product, your customers know that you’re listening to them.

Futureproofing Your Business

Fifteen years ago, the idea that the music industry could even decline seemed impossible. The CD was ascendant, people were buying millions of albums a year, and the industry had a perfect business model that sold songs using radio hits, but to buy the song meant buying the album.

In 2017, the music industry has shrunk by billions of dollars because Apple figured out people wanted to buy songs, not albums. Open innovation ensures you’re futureproofing your business against sudden change, which will only come faster.

Open innovation is, in many ways, increasingly central not just to building new products, but staying competitive. So don’t hesitate; start an IdeaScale community.

The Innovative Mentor

the-innovative-mentorMentors see themselves as people developers. They take a long-term view of their staff and see innovation projects as an opportunity to stretch their employees’ capabilities and to help them achieve their aspirations. Depending on the scope of their ideas, innovators’ careers can be significantly shaped by this journey.

The Mentor Role in Innovation 

A mentor enables innovators to focus on their project results while also learning about themselves along the way. Leaders can mentor innovators through any of the practical business steps in the value creation process itself:

  • Connecting to emerging market trends and identifying the most significant opportunities
  • Gaining customer insights
  • Creating strong solutions and business models
  • Connecting to others who can help them create compelling value propositions
  • Learning how best to communicate and pitch their potential projects; and
  • How to implement quickly once approved and funded.

For example, a medical equipment manufacturer helped the engineers with new product ideas with their pitches. Many of the company’s engineers were not comfortable presenting their big ideas to the senior staff. A manager would work with them to develop the business case. Managers often co-presented with the idea champion to the senior staff. This allowed the engineers to focus on the technical side of the equation where they felt most comfortable while gradually building their pitching and business skills.

Mentors can also encourage innovators to look inside themselves, to understand themselves as leaders or project champions. When is it time to stick to an idea, and when is it time to listen to others and change course? When is it time for individual vision and when is it essential to collaborate and build a strong team with a shared vision? Innovators face a wide mix of business strategy and interpersonal challenges on their road to success. Leaders who have experience in these areas can offer timely guidance to help innovators successfully navigate this multidimensional path.

Beyond Typical Mentorship

Mentors don’t simply give information and advice. They ask open-ended questions that force innovators to think about themselves and the business challenges they face. They ask about lessons learned at each milestone as a way of furthering the innovator’s development. Identifying what worked, what didn’t, and why, should be a regular topic of conversation. In addition, acknowledging that learning through failure is valuable helps to build trust, encourage calculated risk-taking, and fosters a climate of innovation.

Playing the role of mentor means you are able to:

  • Use innovation efforts as an opportunity to develop innovators’ capabilities and careers
  • Coach an innovation champion and team through the entire innovation process
  • Ask tough questions and allow innovators to struggle, without taking over the project
  • Accelerate project team learning by encouraging experimentation, risk-taking, and iteration

Good mentors hold frequent development discussions, ensuring the dialogue is as much about the innovator as it is about the innovation. The time spent on mentoring varies from project to project, but is typically a matter of months rather than days. This time frame gives the mentor and idea champion time to explore the innovation journey together and develop opportunities for the learner to try out new capabilities.

Mentors can act as a sounding board to test and explore new solutions and options, and give advice based on their understanding of the organization and experience with other innovation projects. Since it’s also helpful when the mentor can coach the innovator through the tough challenges that inevitably show up, they need enough time working together to ensure they confront obstacles that will test the innovator’s skills.

A good mentor can cover the wide range of topics needed to enhance the growth of the individual and the results for the business. Often a mentor will play the role of a barrier buster. Playing the role of barrier buster means you are able to:

  • Provide the necessary time, space, tools, and data for your staff to innovate
  • Guide projects along the path of least resistance and avoid political pitfalls
  • Adjust policies, procedures, and organization practices to facilitate new idea implementation
  • Talk your peers through the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that often comes with change

Common Barriers to Plan For

Being a barrier buster requires you to be able to negotiate skillfully in tough situations with both internal and external groups. Innovation means change, and change can be quite disruptive and emotionally charged. Being able to gain concessions without damaging relationships is a valuable skill. Innovation leaders help new ideas mature and create paths of least resistance so projects can navigate the political, economic, and cultural obstacles. There are countless organizational barriers to innovation that cause it to be slow, inefficient, costly, risky, and frustrating. Being aware of some of the most typical obstacles can be helpful:

  • The organization lacks the enterprise-wide methods (concepts, practices, tools, language, or skills) for innovation.
  • There is not enough funding to form and facilitate innovation projects.
  • The organization is overly consensus-oriented, and any dissenting vote can bring an innovation project to a halt. Champions and sponsors give up or leave the company because it is too hard to get everyone onboard with ideas.
  • The organization’s relentless commitment to operational excellence prevents anything new and disruptive from being tried and tested. This is a classic example of a strength becoming a weakness.
  • Past success has robbed the organization of its willingness to take risks. Leaders play it safe and settle for “me too” strategies just to keep up with the pack, rather than boldly investing in a better future.
  • The organization lacks proper incentives for innovation. Idea champions are rarely recognized and rewarded for their efforts.
  • People are overworked and simply don’t have the bandwidth to take on their innovative ideas.
  • Organization silos prevent cross-boundary collaboration and limit the scale, speed, and impact of innovation.

Barrier busters must be politically savvy to meet these kinds of challenges. They need sensitivity to know how the specific people and their organization are likely to react. Barrier busters help their idea champions or project teams maneuver through complex political situations effectively because they can anticipate the organizational “landmines” and how to avoid them.

Persistence in the Face of Obstacles

Barrier busters are also determined. They don’t stop at the first signs of resistance and refuse to accept “no” for an answer whenever there is hope for success. They are resourceful, looking for the support and resources wherever they can be found. Barrier busters know the difference between the market saying “no,” and an organizational obstacle saying, “no.”

A leader might have learned from the VC role to let go of struggling projects, where customers don’t respond as expected or where the market does not respond positively, in order to move the resources to fund innovation winners. However, as a barrier buster, this same leader knows that organizational protectiveness does not mean the project is struggling in the market. The barrier buster fights for the opportunity to let customers decide which product or service is the business of the future.

History is full of examples of innovators who were told their ideas would not work, but who ultimately found ways to find the support and resources they needed. Consider what would have happened if these innovators had not persisted in the face of obstacles:

“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

—Dr. Lee De Forest, “Father of Radio & Grandfather of Television.”

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

—Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

—Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”

—A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found FedEx.)

“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy!”

—Response from the drillers Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859. (quote source)

With innovation, mentorship goes beyond career path improvement. You must incorporate a variety of techniques to move both the innovator and invention forward. Download the complete chapter of Leading Innovation Ten Essential Roles for Harnessing the Creative Talent of your Enterprise for the full text on mentorship. In our next installment of the Leading Innovation series, we’ll review the Networker role. If you’d rather not wait, download the entire chapter today.

This blog post is part of the Leading Innovation series authored by Laszlo Gyorffy, MS. Laszlo is president of the Enterprise Development Group, an international consulting firm specializing in business strategy and innovation. He also is an accomplished speaker, certified instructional designer and trainer, and co-author of Creating Value with CO-STAR: An Innovation Tool for Perfecting and Pitching your Brilliant Ideas and The Global Innovation Science Handbook. Laszlo recently developed the One Hour Innovator a cloud-based toolkit that teaches people how to successfully generate and champion bigger, bolder, and better ideas.