5 Ways Companies Fail at Innovation

Filed Under Mindjet

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Arwen Petty

by
February 20, 2013

Innovation is a hot topic in business these days — between uproar from industry influencers claiming it’s dead and speculation that the nature of the word itself is changing, squeezing out the Next Big Idea is at the top of many a company checklist. Organizations are striving to stay ahead of industry changes while keeping the creative ball rolling, but navigating the quagmire that is today’s agile business landscape can leave some companies in a veritable ingenuity vacuum.

Below are 5 ways that companies fail at innovation. Please don’t do them.

1. They don’t teach managers to ask questions (at least not the right ones).

Natural leaders tend to be tenacious problem-solvers — it’s part of what makes them good at managing. But there’s a downside to all of that incessant resourcefulness: managers often spend so much time answering questions that they forget to ask them, or when they do, it’s frequently on behalf of others. Leaders have a unique opportunity to push innovation through empowering their teams with food for thought: “ask not what your team can get done, but what your team thinks should get done.” Or something like that.

2.  They like to talk about embracing disruption — someday.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: agile business means adaptable business, and that’s not a philosophy that can be employed piecemeal. Changing up the business model is becoming a necessity, and while most CEOs have never had to deal with it, disruptive technology is absolutely everywhere — attempting to outrun it is risky at best.

3. They can’t get over the honeymoon.

Vijay Govindarajan, co-author of The Other Side of Innovation, says “successful companies tend to fall into three traps that make the glory days fleeting.” One of those is psychological, wherein companies become so attached to their initial successes that they don’t notice when something new — or more effective — dislodges their early triumphs. Despite the fact that industry giants like Dell and Microsoft are guilty of it, fixating on new market impact seems like a rookie mistake.

4. They cut corners — lots of them — through outsourcing.

The practice of outsourcing is likely the business move most hated by in-house employees and consumers alike, yet the most widely practiced by companies trying to squeeze every last drop out of their profit margins. In terms of innovation, outsourcing is disastrous: new initiatives can only be successfully rolled out when independently operated vendors agree on a shared course of action. Innovation simply can’t survive that kind of roadblock.

5. They don’t think beyond tomorrow (but they pay for it today).

Typically, companies don’t become even marginally successful without some type of long-term plan, which unfolds alongside initial market testing efforts that support proof of concept. But in the face of today’s constantly fluctuating technological development, it’s less about being perpetual and more about being sustainable. Giving away free support and access to infrastructures, though integral, must be built in to comprehensive financial strategies, lest the true market cost of conceiving and manufacturing come back to bite you squarely in the bank.   

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