Solving root causes of innovation blockage

So what does block innovation? Arguably there are plenty of things up and down organizations.

For instance a lack of resources, an overcrowded portfolio of ideas, a lack of dedicated people, treating innovation as a one-off, keeping it isolated and apart from mainstream activities.

Yet many are simply hidden and need surfacing and require often an outside perspective.

Here are ten really important barriers, that can hold innovation back.

  • Addressing the issue of unfamiliar responsibilities – new and different ways of working, of understanding, of allowing innovation to take hold and flourish is often demanding. It becomes even harder when innovation is often added simply increasing a person’s responsibilities. It is often raising the unfamiliar yet it should become a great place to start this dialogue to bring innovation inside on what we currently do to change the perspective.
  • Innovation demands new directions – making significant changes to the way the organization is run is very challenging, potentially disrupting and needs thinking through at the top-level well. We are needing to become 21st century in our thinking and practices how do we open up the dialogue Where does agility, flexibility, adaptive and exploratory come into our thinking, into our systems, into our culture?
  • Inherited problems always surface – addressing countless and inherent problems is messy and requires dedicated resolution. Changing a culture to become more innovative can be a massive step in structure, organization, and policies. How do we manage such a revolution, what is needed, what is a culture and environment for innovation anyway? How do we manage our legacy, what should stay, what can go? How do we set about this?
  • Problems within the organization’s makeup – inadequate experience and resistance to change especially surface when a person is not equipped to deal with it. Installing innovation capacity, capabilities and competencies need figuring out. How long does this take, where can we turn too? How do we relate change to its positive contribution to the future and can innovation lead that change?
  • High stakes of innovation – demanding ‘breakthrough innovation’ makes everyone feel increasing vulnerable, increasingly visible and it is for leadership to take ownership and real responsibility to manage this demand and shape the risk and set of fears against the gain and return. Can you run breakthroughs alongside incremental innovation activities, what is really different in how can we manage these, building a ‘dual’ mentality?
  • Scope, speed, and scale of innovation – Managing at speed, scale and scope are demanding and requires well thought through systems and processes. To scope, innovation needs robust business case approaches, its flexibility in its management and then to scale this up requires well-established approaches and clear commitments to its engagement and execution. Are we really good at seizing ‘breaking’ opportunities and quickly scaling these up? Can we learn new approaches to this? How do we approach to scale, scope and speed for innovation?
  • External pressures multiply – everyone has an opinion outside the organization, let alone inside. Balancing these different interfaces and the pressures from these as you explore innovation needs managing well. Avoid that mistake of just piling on the raising of expectations and then failing to back this up. What can we learn by listening to those outside, what can we take inside and apply? Do we have we our core beliefs to check these opinions against to stay firm upon or adapt by these new insights?
  • Influencing without full authority – key activities within innovation usually demand that you become reliant on others. You need to spend increasing time on the ‘buy in’ for others to gain their own identification with concepts. You often need to find often imaginative ways of attracting across the resources needed. Today people want to be attracted and expect to learn from the experience and exposure and then be released to move on to the next challenge where their talent is most needed.
  •  Work more with a listening and feedback culture – this can be totally different from the way business has been conducted up to today, flattening organizations aim to allow greater two-way flow but this sucks up time. It takes a time to establish and gain the confidence and momentum as you need to allow more time for debate, so as to allow innovation to truly flourish on a more sustaining basis. What needs to be re-calibrated?
  • The need to develop work group diversity – innovation asks for more diversity in opinion, it draws out more in thinking through alternative approaches to solutions. It can challenge often their very notion of management as many have known and experienced it. How can we encourage a greater diversity of thought, of working, of judging, applying the differences in our ‘collective’ thinking?

To summarize

Each of these ten innovation barriers needs to be surfaced at the right time. To bring them out might need an experienced external facilitator of innovation, to let them probe, prompt and push to find the emerging answers to often these hidden and often ‘intractable’ challenges.

If we can confront these challenges, we can unlock them and make them the basis of the future building blocks and not barriers to greater innovation.

** This list has been inspired by “creating learning experiences without changing jobs” by Cynthia McCauley at the CCL in 2006.






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