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5 common innovation road blocks

innovationA great philosopher once said that struggles and roadblocks open our minds to creative ways to achieve our goals. This is true for most aspects of life and innovation is not any different. The process of innovation can be lengthy and tiring. The processes may go back and forth and can end up causing frustration not just for the team driving it but also for the entire organization. Understanding some of the roadblocks can help innovators escape the trap of ‘killing’ projects prematurely. It can also help in reenergizing teams when they feel demotivated about projects that stall or become draggy.

1. Inadequate resources

Innovation requires investment of resources that will drive and actualize ideas into products. Research is key in generating insights and testing concepts. A skilled innovation team will help drive the process. Significant time must be invested throughout the process and some projects require significant capital expenditure. Lack of these resources can cripple innovation of any organization.

2. Lack of a formal innovation process

One of the major challenges that face organizations especially in developing countries is lack of formalized processes. If you work for a homegrown company, a lot of learning and effort must be put into formalizing how innovation is done. Without the process, the flow of activities can be slow and characterized by back and forth issues. It’s easy to forget critical elements of product development if there are no ways of cross-checking. The stage gate innovation process, for instance allows you to finalize all actions within a phase before proceeding to the next ensuring that no balls are dropped.

3. Focusing on operation excellence

The truth is operational excellence brings you the profits of today but innovation excellence will bring you the profits of tomorrow (Gijs Van Wulfen). A business can focus on doing things in a better and efficient way by making small improvements without spending too much money. A good example is Kaizen. Since continuous improvement is an anthem for most organization, focus on innovation can become fuzzy or even confused for operation excellence.

4. Solving past problems

When a certain element of a launched product has a problem most innovation teams focus on solving the problem that at times they do not recheck other product elements that work. This sometimes results to more problems if the solution does not compliment the other elements. Avoid this road block by practicing more forward thinking that looks at newer better ways and not past problems that bog you down with what didn’t work.

5. Fear of failure

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It is said that most managers say yes to innovation only if doing nothing is a bigger risk. The fear of failure, therefore, makes organizations conservative about new ideas. The pressure to guarantee additional revenue through innovation inhibits such efforts. We all know that despite the business cases and extensive research throughout the innovation process when it comes to explaining to the business why the revenue streams from newly launched products are slow, those directly involved have the highest accountability. This to a greater extent limits innovativeness to mostly incremental changes that have lesser failure rates.

By Senorine Wasike, Innovation Leader & Scholar

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