9 common ways that businesses inhibit innovation

The success of implementing a new and revolutionary idea not only relies on having the right people, resources and environment in place, but also recognising the obstacles that inhibit innovation and ensuring measures are put in place to avoid them.

Nothing kills off an idea better than some red tape and lack of executive support. By identifying the triggers that stifle innovation, large organisations can create an entrepreneurial culture where employees feel empowered to innovate.

Successful startups are often lauded as the best examples where innovation, set free, can reap huge business rewards. Large organisations look towards startups on how to foster innovation, and rightly so. Unfortunately, many have attempted to replicate the environment of successful startups within their business and have met with failure.

Often, the complex structure and rigid controls that holds large companies together is the chief inhibitor to innovation. Certainly, there are best practices from startups on how to cultivate innovation that large organisations can successfully implement – the key is to cherry pick rather than to fully duplicate. However, that is a topic for another conversation.

>See also: Rise of the Chief Innovation Officer – leading the way to transformational innovation

For an organisation to overcome this, it requires an alternate system of empowerment that enables the innovators to have decision making powers and funding. Organisations need to implement an infrastructure where ideas can be captured, incubated and supported. The smart companies, those that want to lead, already do this. The even smarter ones identify the obstacles that throttle innovation and find ways around this.

The following are some of the key inhibitors that kill innovation and creativity. Recognising these is the first step to ensuring all ideas, stand a chance of progressing from a mention in a presentation, a remark in meeting or from inside someone’s head to something more.

9 Key inhibitors of innovation

  1. Focusing on short-term results and trying to maximise today’s profit
  2. Lack of encouragement and resources to enable employees to spend dedicated time to think innovatively due to pressure on keeping the lights on
  3. Lack of courage to cannibalise the existing business to create a market disruption
  4. No infrastructure and process to nurture innovation
  5. Lack of training or induction to managers on being innovation leaders
  6. Inability of managers to appreciate and encourage innovation. Often, managers spend too much time in finding the problems with ideas.  No idea is perfect to start with
  7. Thinking innovation is a diversion of an employee’s day-to-day job
  8. 8. Lack of review and feedback on ideas from a customer or industry point of view, and spending far too much time through internal reviews
  9. A corporate culture that only celebrates success

Only few organisations allow an innovator who has a few failed innovations under his or her belt in their resume to continue innovating. Let’s not forget that it took James Dyson 15 years and 5,127 attempts before his iconic bagless cyclonic vacuum became a success.

Having a healthy pipeline of innovative ideas is key for business growth. For every inspiration that becomes a business reality, hundreds of ideas will inevitably be played around like a Rubik’s cube before being discarded.

>See also: Innovation in the enterprise: How can CIOs ensure its success?

It is important to make sure that all ideas are progressed based on the business merits and not on who one knows in the organisation.  It also provides a good mechanism for the board, CEO and executive council to know where the investments are and the lessons learnt. 

An innovation journey should never stop. Providing a platform and environment where employees feel comfortable and encouraged to explore their ideas, knowing they have the support from the wider business, is crucial.


Sourced from Subramanian Gopalaratnam, Xchanging

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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