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Why Innovation Systems Fail

Posted 6 years ago

Is your innovation program going to fail?

Our biggest concern with all the hype about innovation at the moment is that in three years’ time there is going to be a huge organisational backlash against innovation as innovation systems fail to live up to the rhetoric.

Let’s face it, if innovation was a simple process then we wouldn’t be talking about it so much – everyone would be doing it.

Over the past 10 years that IIG has been establishing innovation systems and helping commercialise new technologies, we have seen a number of companies close down innovation programs because they are not providing the cost/benefit outcomes required by upper management and governance.

So why do innovation systems fail? Here are five traps to avoid:

#1 Mis-aligned management expectations:
An obvious but sadly common one. While management expectations are often set when an innovation program is established, it is rare to find an ‘expectation maintenance’ program. When senior personnel change within an organisation, it can’t be assumed that they will share existing expectations. Expectation maintenance is all about checking and re-checking that key stakeholders are aligned with timeframes and success indicators.

#2 Stuck success indicators:
Another obvious one (but like management expectations), success indicators also need to change with the times to maintain their relevancy to the organisation. A ‘set and forget’ strategy when it comes to performance indicators is fine if there are no management changes…but management changes inevitably occur.

#3 Irregular reporting:
Do you provide innovation performance information that feeds into board reports? If not, then don’t be surprised that the board doesn’t even know that there is an innovation program in place. Regular reporting and input into corporate strategy are critical to ensure that innovation remains an integral element of an organisation’s culture, direction and operations.

#4 Stale idea selection processes:
Ever wonder why one type of idea seems to be more prevalent than others within your innovation system? Over time there is a degree of comfort that creeps into how ideas get into the innovation pipeline. ‘Comfortable’ innovation programs tend to lead to comfortable outcomes. Challenging the idea identification and selection process is a good way to revitalise the process.

#5 Implementing on assumptions:
We continue to see innovation programs struggle with recognising the role of assumptions in the innovation process, a trap which often results in expensive failures. Selecting the best way to replace assumptions with facts in many cases requires novel proof of concept programs or other mechanisms to bridge the gap.

As times change, make sure that your innovation program changes with them. Impact Innovation can help you chart and navigate a successful innovation to avoid these traps.

Want to know more? Contact us.