Tackle barriers to innovation

In a perfect world, organisational culture would align closely with your business and innovation strategies. Everyone would play a part to move the organisation forward. As Booz & Co’s recent Global Innovation 1000 survey found, it’s still a far from perfect world. Few companies have such alignment, even fewer a well-developed innovation strategy. “Innovators need a heavy dose of faith,” says Innosight’s Scott Anthony. “If you are doing something that hasn’t been done before, careful analysis will by definition highlight reasons to not proceed. Market demand can’t be validated. Experts dismiss technology assumptions. Partnership discussions stall.” Author Luke Williams nominates three major barriers to innovation: feeling overwhelmed, directionless and unfocused; thinking in terms of isolated products, services and information; and endlessly discussing but not acting on ideas (he calls it “getting stuck at the water cooler”). He recommends focusing your efforts, forcing connections between ideas, and physically documenting your most promising concepts. “Don’t make your innovation processes so rigid that they get in the way of informal and spontaneous innovation efforts,” adds innovation author Mitch Ditkoff. “Build flexibility into your design. Think ‘self-organising’ innovation, not ‘command-and-control’ innovation.” Even the most robust processes can still be stymied by cultural resistance, caution Procter & Gamble’s Larry Huston and Nabil Sakkab, reflecting on P&G’s open innovation challenges. “No amount of idea hunting on the outside will pay off if, internally, the organisation isn’t behind the program.”

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