Tue, 28 August 2018
A common question I get from listeners is how to fight against the roadblocks and barriers to innovation. In this week’s show, I address five of the biggest barriers to innovation. The list is based on the 2018 Innovation Leader study done in partnership with KPMG. The study surveyed Chief Innovation Officers in organizations ranging from small to large. As many of you have let me know, these barriers resonate with you. As we walk through the list, I will share my thoughts on each of these barriers to innovation.
The Roadblocks and Speed Bumps
First, here’s the list of barriers to innovation and how they rank among Chief Innovation Officers surveyed.
Let’s take a closer look at these and what I would do to get around these barriers to innovation.
Number One: Politics, Turf Wars, No Alignment
There are many manifestations of politics be it people vying for credit or the corporate antibody. Politics can be a big challenge especially in large organizations. The higher people rise within an organization, the more risk averse and defensive they tend to become.
Turf wars can erupt when “innovation” is used in a team name or a position title. The innovation team creates an innovation for a product group. The product group team gives it an icy reception. It’s an invasion of their turf.
No alignment occurs when people within the organization are going in different directions. Leaders announce the need for innovation fast, but give no guidance. There’s no alignment of the activities or the overall organizational vision. This is a lack of leadership.
Here are ways to bring down these barriers:
Number Two: Culture
Some of the underlying issues I’ve seen with culture are fear of failure and unwillingness to experiment. If these are concerns, a work around is to go stealth with your innovation.
But, if you really want to fix the problem…
Number Three: Inability to Act on Signals
The inability to act on signals signifies inflexibility within the organization. Maybe you see a new opportunity or risk on the horizon but all resources are committed until the next budget cycle. Or maybe you do not have a mechanism in place to identify weak signals.
The key to breaking this barrier to innovation:
Number Four: Lack of Budget
Budget is a challenge for innovation because budget cycles tend to be annual, but innovation does not follow an annual cycle. Budget does not support or align with innovation. It creates a start-stop interference to innovation programs. I’ve been experimenting with trended spending in my organization. It gives innovation teams flexibility to adjust funding and confidence funds will be there when needed.
The Rule of 18 also comes into play as a barrier. It is the length of time senior leaders are willing to commit to a project before they expect to see some form of impact. If the innovation project does not show impact within 18 months, it’s likely to be axed.
My advice for budget related barriers to innovation:
Number Five: Lack of Vision, Lack of Strategy
If an organization’s overall vision does not include the innovation vision and strategy, it’s unlikely innovations will succeed.
If you’ve got a specific example or you’re struggling with an innovation issue, drop me an email.
Better yet, join us at The Innovators Community, a private slack community of leading innovators from around the world. Post your questions or direct message for advice and feedback.
Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show. It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea. Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at PhilMckinney.com.