56 Reasons Why Innovation Initiatives Fail

by Mitch Ditkoff

56 Reasons Why Innovation Initiatives FailInnovation is in these days. The word is on the lips of just about every CEO, CFO, CIO, and anyone else with a three-letter acronym after their name. As a result, many companies are launching all kinds of “innovation initiatives” – hoping to stir the soup. This is understandable. But it is also, far too often, very disappointing…

Innovation initiatives sound good, but usually don’t live up to the expectations. The reasons are many.

What follows are fifty-six of the most common ones – organizational obstacles we’ve observed in the past twenty-two years that get in the way of a company really raising the bar for innovation.

See which ones are familiar to YOU. Then, sit down with your Senior Team… CEO… innovation committee, or best friend and jump start the process of going beyond these obstacles. Let the games begin:

  1. “Innovation” framed as an initiative, not the normal way of doing business
  2. Absence of a clear definition of what “innovation” really means
  3. Innovation not linked to company’s existing vision or strategy
  4. No sense of urgency
  5. Workforce is suffering from “initiative fatigue”
  6. CEO does not fully embrace the effort
  7. No compelling vision or reason to innovate
  8. Senior Team not aligned
  9. Key players don’t have the time to focus on innovation
  10. Innovation champions are not empowered
  11. Decision making processes are non-existent or fuzzy
  12. Lack of trust
  13. Risk averse culture
  14. Overemphasis on cost cutting or incremental improvement
  15. Workforce ruled by past assumptions and old mental models
  16. No process in place for funding new projects
  17. Not enough pilot programs in motion
  18. Senior Team not walking the talk
  19. No company-wide process for managing ideas
  20. Too many turf wars. Too many silos.
  21. Analysis paralysis
  22. Reluctance to cannibalize existing products and services
  23. NIH (not invented here) syndrome
  24. Funky channels of communication
  25. No intrinsic motivation to innovate
  26. Unclear gates for evaluating progress
  27. Mind numbing bureaucracy
  28. Unclear idea pitching processes
  29. Lack of clearly defined innovation metrics
  30. No accountability for results
  31. No way to celebrate quick wins
  32. Poorly facilitated meetings
  33. No training to unleash individual or team creativity
  34. Voodoo evaluation of ideas
  35. Inadequate sharing of best practices
  36. Lack of teamwork and collaboration
  37. Unclear strategy for sustaining the effort
  38. Innovation Teams meet too infrequently
  39. Middle managers not on board
  40. Ineffective rollout of the effort to the workforce
  41. Lack of tools and techniques to help people generate new ideas
  42. Innovation initiative perceived as another “flavor of the month”
  43. Individuals don’t understand how to be a part of the effort
  44. Diverse inputs or conflicting opinions not honored
  45. Imbalance of left-brain and right brain thinking
  46. Low morale
  47. Over-reliance on technology
  48. Failure to secure sustained funding
  49. Unrealistic timeframes
  50. Failure to consider issues associated with scaling up
  51. Inability to attract talent to risky new ventures
  52. Failure to consider commercialization issues
  53. No rewards or recognition program in place
  54. No processes in place to get fast feedback
  55. No real sense of what your customers really want or need
  56. Company hiring process screens out potential innovators

Others we may have missed?

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Mitch DitkoffMitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of “Awake at the Wheel”, as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.

No comments

  1. Very useful tips.
    It's a big problem when someone has a good idea and the organization itself (workers, CEO, infrastructures, and so on) is the wall to beat. Somethimes, create a solution for a problem is nothing compared with the organisation's preparations to receive that solution – that's why the fifty six reasons are good tips: they help us to open our eyes, to work better in the backstage.
    Right to the point.

  2. Hello Mitch,

    Created a presentation on those 56 points for better read.

    Got inspired so much that couldn't resist creating ppt.

    http://www.slideshare.net/mukeshrijhwani/56-reasons-why-innovation-initiatives-fail-3353111

    cheers,
    M

  3. Hello Mitch,

    Many of my friends asked the reverse question

    What are the 10 most essential reasons why innovation initiatives will work?

    Can you just publish the same?

    warm regards,
    M
    mukeshrijhwani@gmail.com

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