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What stops innovation from progressing?

Posted 4 years ago

You have innovative people, a culture supportive of new ideas and plenty of motivation. But somehow, your innovation program just isn’t generating results.

You’re not alone. A 2019 global survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group found that 80% of innovation executives said innovation was a top-three priority at their companies, but only 30% said their organisations were good at it.

So what’s going wrong? Here are five common culprits and what you can do to address them.

  1. Scattergun approach
    Many organisations have innovative people, but they operate in silos. People in different business teams work busily on new ideas, but they aren’t pulling in the same direction. Efforts are incremental and never reach their full potential. Address this by implementing an effective innovation system. Effective innovation systems bring people together so the best new ideas can scale up and create impact across the whole organisation.
  2. Stale ideas
    Ever wonder why one type of idea seems to keep cropping up within your innovation system? Over time, a degree of comfort and familiarity can creep into the innovation pipeline. ‘Comfortable’ innovation programs can lead to comfortable outcomes. Bring in a process to challenge idea generation. Challenging the idea identification and selection process is a good way to break down the existing boundaries to revitalise the process.
  3. Communication stops
    It’s important to keep key stakeholders updated on innovation project timelines, budgets and progress. The innovation team also needs to be kept in the loop regarding any changes to organisational goals and targets, so everyone shares the same vision. KPIs should be revisited regularly with senior leadership to ensure they are still the best way to track success. Internal support is also incredibly helpful – an innovation champion who works to keep the wider team informed and enthused will go a long way.
  4. Implementing on assumptions
    Acting on assumptions can lead to 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. Shifting the focus to KPIs that manage investment risk for projects that are pre-revenue is also critical for keeping the executive team on-board. Especially the CFO!
  5. No support from the top
    Do you provide regular innovation performance information that feeds into board reports? If not, then don’t be surprised if the board doesn’t even know there’s an innovation program in place. Regular reporting and input into corporate strategy are critical to ensure innovation remains an integral element of an organisation’s culture, direction and operations. If you need to change the relevance of innovation in your organisation a good place to start is to illustrate how the program will help meet existing business goals.

Successful corporate innovation programs require dedicated teams, an effective system, fresh ideas, regular communication, facts-based decision-making and management support for innovation right from the board level. If you’re wondering why your corporate innovation program is struggling to see results, it’s most likely because at least one of these elements is missing.

If you are after a structured innovation system framework to identify and prioritise key actions, report on outcomes and keep teams focused on critical tasks to maintain momentum, check out our Innovation System Action Plan (ISAP)