I have previously written elsewhere about 5 innovation killers, but have been thinking further on this subject and have now identified 10 organisational and management factors that I believe prevent companies from reaching their innovation potential.

  1. Professional management. Although professionally trained managers bring control and focus to organisations, they also reduce risk and demand proof ahead of action, inhibiting innovation.
  2. A desire for a magic pill, rather than a daily exercise regime. Innovation requires persistence not one-off efforts. There are no short cuts to success.
  3. Too many priorities. Innovation relies on pace, which, in turn, is facilitated by organisational focus on a few priorities.
  4. Excessive customer focus. Customers are often poor predictors of their own future behaviour. Sometimes you need to lead your customers, not simply build what they ask for.
  5. An over-emphasis on problem solving. In many organisations it is the problem-solvers, the managers who can sort out crises, who are the real heroes, not the innovators.
  6. A need to be ‘right first time’. ‘Right first time’ is fine for ongoing operations, but is anathema to innovation, which relies on trial and error.
  7. Reliance on a small internal team. The most innovative businesses are increasingly looking to partner outside their organisation to develop and drive new growth initiatives.
  8. An unwillingness to cannibalise sales. The simple truth is that if you’re not willing to cannibalise your sales, your competitors will eventually do it for you.
  9. Incremental goals. If your performance targets are focused on a few percentage point improvements you’ll probably find a way to achieve your goal without changing much. You need to raise the bar and stretch your organisation if you want to see new growth and innovation.
  10. A fear of failure. Top innovators rate their key strength as their ability to innovate fearlessly. Innovation is 90% failure. Don’t let your ego or your performance management systems encourage your teams to avoid failure. Instead, focus your teams on failing as quickly and as cheaply as they possibly can.

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.