What is impeding innovation in your business today? I asked this question at a Master Class on Innovation I ran recently for senior executives leaders in large organizations. The answers included many corporate culture issues such as:
- – We are risk-averse.
- – There is a fear of failure.
- – There is a fear of the unknown.
- – People like to stick to the ways they have always done things.
- – Departments work in silos and do not co-operate.
- – People want to avoid blame when things go wrong.
They also listed some process issues:
- – People are too busy on the day job – there is no time for experimentation.
- – We do not know how to do it.
- – There is no budget.
- – Approval processes are long with many layers.
- – Government regulation.
- – Customers are not asking for it.
- – There is no incentive or reward for ideas or innovations.
Finally I asked one delegate who ran his own business in entertainment, ‘What was impeding innovation for his firm?’ He thought for a moment and then responded, ‘Nothing.’ There was silence in the room.
It is certainly easier to innovate in a small company. Large organizations develop habits and processes for the efficient supply of products or services and these habits and processes are naturally inimical to innovation. Nonetheless, most, if not all, of the impediments given by the executives and listed above are excuses. All of the cultural and process barriers can be overcome by determined and courageous leaders. We have plenty of people who talk the talk but not many who are prepared to tackle the people and process issues which are preventing entrepreneurial initiatives. The courageous leader sets the vision, mandates innovation, overcomes the fear of failure, fights complacency and allocates time, money and people for innovation. They make it a priority. They empower people to experiment with prototypes and they accept that failure is part of the process and a learning experience. Over time, the innovative leader can create an entrepreneurial culture and build the processes for delivering innovation. We can see this in action in big companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Uber and Virgin.
What is impeding innovation in most businesses today? All the impediments and excuses can be traced back to a single cause; timorous leadership.
This post was previously published on destination-innovation.com.
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