10 Signs That Innovation Will Fail

by Stefan Lindegaard

10 Signs That Innovation Will FailWhat are the signs that innovation in a company is set up to fail? It would be great to have a checklist, but unfortunately innovation is too complicated and company-specific to employ a standard checklist for this.

However, we can share our insights on this and help each other become better at spotting the signs of failure.

Thus I have listed (in a non-prioritized order) the red flags I look for when I talk with executives and innovation leaders trying to get an understanding of their corporate innovation capabilities. What do you think and what can you add?

  1. The lack of an innovation strategy. Executives and innovation leaders have failed to link innovation with the overall corporate strategy. As a result, the innovation efforts have no clear directions and there is not a proper mix of incremental, breakthrough and radical innovation. No strategy, no focused effort, no results.
  2. No definition of innovation. Innovation means different things to different people. Every company should develop their own definition that fits their situation and use this definition to build a common language for their innovation initiatives.
  3. Too much focus on internal capabilities. The future of innovation is open and global. Who will get this first? You – or your competitors?
  4. Too much focus on open innovation. This is not the Holy Grail. You need to go open, but keep a strong focus on your internal resources. A key to innovation success is the ability to combine internal and external resources and act on the opportunities that arise from this.
  5. Internal silos are not broken down. If you cannot make innovation happen across your own business units and functions you cannot expect to succeed with external partners.
  6. Too much focus on ideas and too little focus on people. People and processes matter more than ideas. Yet, too few companies establish programs in which they can identify and develop the right people and match these people with the right ideas at the right time.
  7. Executives do not understand that a strong innovation culture equals a strong networking culture. Although executives might acknowledge the value of relationships, they often leave this in the woods saying that people can figure this out by themselves. Not true. Executives need to establish networking strategies and employees need training that fits these strategies just as well as the time to build and nurture relationships.
  8. Innovation efforts focus on technology or products. Most companies do not work with innovation models such as the Ten Types of Innovation which helps the employees and external partners view innovation in a more holistic way. Remember that innovation is also about services and processes.
  9. The usual suspects play the game. Innovation champions and other elite units can work, but the setup of such units often also sends the signal that these guys will take care of it. Other employees might think they do not need to get involved. Everyone should not work with innovation at the same time, but programs or platforms that give everyone opportunities to work with innovation should be in place.
  10. Executives and innovation leaders underestimate the speed of change. One example is open innovation. A key objective here is to become the preferred partner of choice. This will happen fast and yet many companies are not even getting ready to claim their position.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on this.

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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation.

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