Your Company’s Largest Innovation Roadblock

Filed Under Innovation

Road Blocks

by
May 19, 2014

You may think that my criticism of meetings means I’m opposed to them. Nothing could be further from the truth; ideation and innovation often come when different minds collaborate. By introducing different perspectives and interpretations about an issue, varying opportunities to solve the problem are brought to light.

Overcoming the Invisible Barrier

Textual communications — or even a phone call — often don’t provide the freedom that an in-person meeting brings, where you can read body language, encourage attendees to participate, and create an environment where imagination is rewarded.

The largest roadblock to innovation for companies isn’t time, money or (especially) unimaginative people. By their nature, humans are creative and productive. They simply need to be provided the opportunity to unleash that creativity and productivity in a focused, but not impeded, way. The largest roadblock to innovation for companies is fear.

A few years ago, Regent University’s Journal of Strategic Leadership published an article by Adam Kuyatt — Managing for Innovation: Reducing the Fear of Failure — that all companies should study. It says:

“Organizations today face the problem that innovations are quickly arising from all over the world and changing the marketplace, with the pace of innovation and change increasing. Radical innovations are causing creative destruction in the marketplace and forcing out established products and services faster and faster. Management is mainly responsible for success or failure, so they must find ways to increase innovation, especially radical innovation, within the organization.

One significant method of doing this is to reduce the fear of failure, which is caused by negative management reactions to both radical innovation and failures from attempts at risky new ideas. That fear of failure inhibits innovation by hiding failures, suppressing new ideas, and avoiding risky concepts. Leadership practices that discourage innovation must be replaced with ones that encourage innovation, including accepting risk, viewing failure as a learning opportunity, allowing sufficient time for innovative ideas to develop, and encouraging champions to help overcome resistance and find resources.

Management needs to make the organization an ambidextrous operation that can continue to improve the efficiency of current products and services with incremental innovation, while simultaneously encouraging the discovery, adoption, and implementation of radical innovations, without the fear of failure, to increase the organization’s ability to be competitive.”

The findings insinuate that management is the fulcrum by which innovation is inherently adopted within the organization. From encouraging innovation to reducing the fear of failure through acceptance and admittance, as well as encouraging and leading innovation, team leaders have the power to act as catalysts — or a hindrance.

The Right to Fail

At many modern companies, we often discourage failure through termination, lack of upward mobility, or a lack of compensation. These are all necessary management strategies; but, they could also be stifling your employees’ ability to ideate freely, and totally eliminate innovation within the organization.

Few companies actually do it, but perhaps it’s time that we develop internal failure awards and compensation to encourage people to make the attempt! Of course, everyone needs to manage risk as well. However, the risk of failure is becoming much, much smaller than the risk of not innovating at all.

Do you have programs within your organization that encourage innovation regardless of the success or failure of the attempt? How do you manage the risk without stifling your organization’s ability to innovate? Talk to us in the comments.

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