I was eavesdropping on a conversation on one of my LinkedIn groups on the subject. All too often companies invest considerable time, cost and effort in ‘innovation’ without return. The CEO gets inspired by the idea of innovation, persuaded by an article, book, speaker, etc and suddenly there is budget to ‘do innovation’. All stops are pulled and things are go go. Only it doesn’t stick…

Here are Top 50 Barriers to Innovation identified for your peers who frequently found themselves trampled in the stampede.

  1. Confusing Invention: turning cash into ideas, with Innovation, turning ideas into cash, thereby not treating each accordingly.
  2. Cost of Innovation. Knowing that on average over 90% of innovative projects fail and never rich ROI, it’s obvious that top management will try to avoid “too much innovation”. This leads to playing safe and focusing on external acquisitions rather than pursuing innovation internally.
  3. Culture. “Man” is a creature of habit -to innovate one has to break old habits – and that’s not easy.
  4. Culture. Innovation is a mystery, not a way of life to the majority of organizations
  5. Fear of change. Humans in their core don’t like change.
  6. Fear of failure (9 out of 10 new ventures fail making leaders averse to betting on risky ventures… there is an Italian proverb, the dog who is burned in the bath first fears hot water; then cold. Everyone wants to emulate like the Japanese and let others do the R&D)
  7. Fear of the new.
  8. Focus on ideas not needs: Inventors/innovators get distracted by the cleverness of their idea(s), without caring enough about marketing realities and the value (of the innovation) to customers/clients.
  9. Focus on output. Organizations are created to repeatedly produce outputs.
  10. Focus on the beauty of the idea, product or service without thinking of how to monetize it
  11. Intellectual laziness: Not everyone relishes all forms of ‘thinking’. Also, some ideas require technical competence.
  12. Internal political agreements between corporate power brokers. Innovation once identified, must run through an internal vetting process, one that will either obtain a sponsor or not, funding or not, etc… Once through this vetting process, the established process-engines will work to minimize risk. Too much process can create a pathological state, where the innovation can become so laboured it is no longer sustainable/desirable. M&A allows circumvention of the status quo, but does it last?
  13. Junior Management being too focused on the “rightness of their idea” instead of thinking how to build support with top management based on their needs
  14. Lack of a balanced vision and systemic approach. (Will do it on the way there…)
  15. Lack of activists to lead the innovation process: As someone noted innovation goes through an odyssey from ideation through diffusion. In many larger organizations it would seem that someone with the energy, insight, foresight, intelligence, persuasiveness to lead innovation projects is “promoted” to business management.
  16. Lack of clear corporate vision
  17. Lack of collaborative environment
  18. Lack of commitment from all parties involved.
  19. Lack of communication
  20. Lack of criteria for selection, implementing and defining what the enterprise wants from outside world. What do we want to harvest? Which kind of ideas or projects? In which stage of development? We want ideas? Projects? Patents? Small Businesses?
  21. Lack of diversity.
  22. Lack of financial support for greater ideas from employees
  23. Lack of focus for continuous innovation
  24. Lack of funding: Always promised, never materialises, almost always gets re-allocated!
  25. Lack of leadership of people: forming the right team, size and talent
  26. Lack of leadership: Waiting for someone else to lead. So many “leaders” are really just “managers.” Leaders inspire, challenge, cast vision, empower, encourage and…lead. Managers manage resources and get things done. Both are needed, but there are not that many true leaders who see the future and then plant their dream in the hearts of others to grow into reality.
  27. Lack of organisation culture to foster innovation to employees
  28. Lack of passion, without passion you never give 99% of perspiration needed for the innovation, the other 1% come from inside you
  29. Lack of priorities: Fast, Cheap and Quality. What defines acceptable timing, price points and quality expectations? The question is what are you chasing, market share or customer loyalty.
  30. Lack of Process (lack method for innovating, refining and implementing)
  31. Lack of reason (imperative, vision, mission, etc.) to innovate: Many organizations are quite successful as close-followers, me-too producers, or operating with market dominance. An innovation strategy is risky.
  32. Lack of reward of innovation: Businesses may gain a reward for successful innovation, but it seems that individuals may not be rewarded either monetarily or non-monetarily in effective ways.
  33. Lack of understanding of what innovation really is
  34. Lack of understanding that innovation requires different set of skills than engineering or business skills. Thus many organizations believe that they already invest to top professionals, so why no innovation? Let’s paint walls all colors of rainbow and wait until our engineers will invent the next iPhone… Alas, it does not work.
  35. Lip service: people talk about importance of innovation but their behaviours say the opposite.
  36. Managers (and many executives) in large corporations are excessively focused on resource allocation, without also focusing on strategic planning — which requires innovative thinking for best results.
  37. Missing Process for Innovation : Projects to be built in with priorities to be in place for developments and opportunities that can be leveraged towards excellence, which anyways missing in bright minds amidst bright pre existing thought process and achievements with limited corners defined relatively with a lot of fear factor mechanism and less space of motivation.
  38. No portfolio balance vision. Enterprises practicing open innovation must see their portfolio of projects in different perspectives. Ideas, short- or long-term projects, M&A, and many other kinds of initiatives need to be seen and evaluated by different perspectives. Do we have different ways of evaluating such different things?
  39. No RISK itself is a Big RISK Game: Taking no risk with Innovations itself is a BIG RISK for any enterpreneur or business house or let it be the individual itself.
  40. Not knowing what you don’t know.
  41. Number focus; Allocation of Cost/Resources for Innovation: Cost allocation fear which is negligible if success really turn out with innovation but creep in minds of the financial stake holders analyzing & predict with current financial trends transforming towards the unforeseen results and apply breaks at some times before start of a good innovative task.
  42. Number focus; Strategic ambitions tempered by a quarterly number focus. The street will reward and punish, based on what they can de-risk and turn a profit, which at times will not be aligned to risk needed in pursuing innovation. This drives the internal measurement of value. How innovative can you be in a quarter or two?
  43. Numbers focus: No one knows for sure how to calculate accurately how much time and money it will take to convert a good idea to a commercial success. Result: avoiding responsibility. It is safer to play with known and predictable things.
  44. Organizational antibodies!
  45. People (not understanding the key types: Innovators, Refiners, Implementers and Facilitators and their respective roles in the process)
  46. Senior Management (or the relevant Manager) has invested serious moneys, time, emotions (even ego) in existing equipment, systems, processes and probably many were promoted on the strength of some of those initiatives.
  47. Senior Management getting in the way: their role particularly in large organizations is usually on efficient resource allocation not deep understanding of unmet customer needs, the key driver of effective innovation.
  48. Senior Management: Always under the impression that there is enough innovation in their company. Also suffer the dreaded disease of numbers myopia.
  49. Short-term thinking – the way we do business today: To be innovative, you have to look to the future and consider possibilities. This implies you plan to be around for awhile. So many companies these days are purchased by investors with the intention of gutting and turning them in 3 to 5 years. Innovation isn’t even part of the plan. Because people want immediate results and aren’t thinking or planning for a long term future, being innovative isn’t even considered as a desired outcome. Rewards have to be fairly immediate for an option to be considered.
  50. Silos and Cliques defending the Status Quo.

And, here are a couple of CEO Innovation bloopers:
“We haven’t enough time to think at the innovations! We have a lot of ideas but we cannot pass to the project and finalize it”.
“We usually don’t allow engineers to try new stuff, because then they feel confident, start trying more of new stuff for which regular work suffers, skills improve unnecessarily and chances of them leaving the job increase. “

I’d like to know what you think and what experience you had with innovation. What made your efforts succeed? What made it fail?

Margaret Manson is Founder and Chief Inspirator of InnoFuture, a ThinkTank, innovation network and a provider of Innovation DOJO, a System for transforming and embedding innovation culture in your essential business processes. Because innovation is not a stand-alone discipline. It is a set of desired behaviours that are taught, nurtured and re-iterated.