May 30 2012

Don't Let Innovation Die in Your Company

Keep fresh ideas and creative processes alive by avoiding these innovation killers.

The best businesses are the ones that constantly seek to innovate and reinvent. Change is like air to entrepreneurs, and the best business leaders encourage a perpetual generation of out-of-the-box thinking and experimental collaborations.

But too many companies inadvertently stifle innovation by misusing what they might see as business best practices.

Chris Curran, a PwC analyst and a BizTech Must-Read IT Blogger, highlights four innovation killers in a blog post for his CIO Dashboard blog.

Fail to Assign Roles and Responsibilities

Innovation is exciting. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in masterminding the next big idea to make a company millions or draw the business closer to its customers? As such, when senior management issues an innovation mandate, people across the company start making plans before clear roles and responsibilities between people and teams are outlined. Turf battles ensue, and workplace politics can easily derail innovation projects.

Fixate on ROI too Early

Management’s obsession with assigning innovation an ROI at all costs is suffocating. If you don’t know what it is yet, how do you build a business case? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen companies invent numbers out of thin air because they don’t have enough data. Why waste effort trying to define something that is undefinable at the early stages of innovation? Corporations should commit a small investment upfront to explore the possibilities before engaging in the futile exercise of trying to prove the value of the expedition. Invest enough money to test the idea and collect the required data to make a more informed go/no-go decision.

Forgo Fire Pits

Here’s where companies don’t draw boundaries around what they are trying to innovate. Are you creating a whole new business, remaking a business function or inventing a new product type? Are you focused on improving internal processes? It’s crucial that companies clearly delineate the scope of innovation. With the scope defined, an appropriate multiskilled team can be formed.

Fragment and Forget

Corporations often spin off separate innovation units, which leads to innovation investments purposefully disconnected from the company. This isn’t a problem if the purpose of innovation is simply to make some extra money investing in outside businesses. Trouble arises when companies try to fold innovation back into core operations after the fact, diluting the mission of the separate unit.

Avoid these faux pas, and you, too, can make sure that your organization is equipped with all the tools it needs to keep innovation alive.