What is the most common way to block innovation in any business?

What is the most common way to block innovation in any business?

Punish failure.

Someone made a comment about how some of the recommendations that I made on a recent post where ready made solutions for how to stimulate innovation in any organization. They are not. They are idea starters on how to drive innovation in any business, tactics that have been used elsewhere. But they are not ready made solutions that you can just plug and play into your organization.

Seriously, there is no ready made solution to innovation. No matter what others tell you. A template might net you an interesting idea once in awhile but there is no safety in procedures. It’s true. The biggest thing to understand about innovation is this: it’s never fully realized. There is no “there.” If you’ve developed the miracle drug, there’s always another miracle drug to make. If you’ve developed the great restaurant, there’s always a second restaurant. There’s always somebody pushing back with an alternative so that you have to keep moving forward. We’ve never fully arrived—whenever we get where we think we wanted to get, there’s a new place to reach.

This isn’t like launching a rocket with humans on board into space, where security and safety is at a premium. As I explained in my last post, today we can prototype and launch a product, service and experience very quickly without having to go through a lengthy process of going through stakeholders. But even then, you still have to keep testing, learning what works and iterating

So, if you can’t punish failure then what do you do to drive innovation?

Embrace and celebrate failure. Learn how to fail. If you do so, you would be able to find the reasons of failures and improve. 50 to 70 per cent of all new product innovations fail at even the most successful companies. The main difference between companies who succeed at innovation and those who don’t isn’t their rate of success — it’s the fact that successful companies have a LOT of ideas, pilots, and product innovations in the pipeline.

A word of caution, if you punish failure you are likely waiting for a ready made solutions that require no effort. And you are most likely to use the two most deadliest words in business: Prove it.

Stop it. Instead say “test it”. That’s a great way to start promoting innovation in your business.

Also, punishing failure might be related to getting fired. But that isn’t always the case. You might not even fire, and the people who are with you have been there for a while, but here the problem is that they just don’t care. The are in neutral and just going through the motions of going to work everyday.

That’s not all, there are other unspoken ways you might be punishing failure. Here are a few:

  • Being the one with all the ideas
  • Not developing people
  • Asking people for ideas but not really using their ideas
  • Not modeling the behavior you want to see from others

Here are 10 more ways you are undermining innovation in your organization.

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  • Jeffrey Phillips

    Hi Jorge, your concept is interesting but I don’t think it’s the biggest blockage for innovation. Punishing failure means that the organization is allowing teams to start innovation work. The biggest barrier to innovation is inertia – a passive resistance that keeps innovation from getting started.

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      Well inertia is the result of conformity. I get your point. But where does it start? At the top, unfortunately. An if the people at the top stop pushing in other directions or get out of the way of real misfits, we see companies running on a treadmill but not making any traction.

      What I’m trying to communicate here is that we need to challenge people differently, not by punishing them as traditionally done. On the other hand, inertia wouldn’t be an issue if the organization has a robust strategy which clearly defines what it does, why it does it and how it does it. Including the people it hires.

      But you already know that 🙂

      Cheers,

      Jorge

  • Jeffrey Phillips

    Hi Jorge, your concept is interesting but I don’t think it’s the biggest blockage for innovation. Punishing failure means that the organization is allowing teams to start innovation work. The biggest barrier to innovation is inertia – a passive resistance that keeps innovation from getting started.

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  • re:invention, inc.

    Few companies are guilty of inertia. Companies, management, and employees are always doing something — alas, they are often accelerating the wrong activities and they aren’t doing the right activities well. They are spinning their wheels like a car stuck in mud. Sometimes when you are in a hole you would actually be better off if you stop digging. IMHO, the biggest barrier to innovation is executional excellence. The world is littered with great ideas, poorly implemented.

    • Hi Kirsten,

      Yes execution is hard. It is an ongoing challenge. It goes with the human factor which is what I’m trying to communicate here (see my response to Jeffrey)…

  • jjrb230

    The NIH (Not Invented Here) SYNDROME keeps America eating on plates that get food cold. Google “HotSmart Plates”

  • jjrb230

    The other big obstacle is lack of funding; although some companies are learning to invest in good ideas and let you start new projects risking only small investments. The most important thing is to stimulate creativity without fear of failing.
    On the other hand starting your own company is very difficult with no funding, even if you have a market tested product or service with virtually no competitors

    • jjrb230

      We are sold out; impossible to keep the pipeline full without funding. Fortunately a new shipment with improved product is coming (Spring 2014).

    • Hi,

      Yeah funding is an issue. Though you can make progress without it trying small stuff and showing people you are willing to make changes sends a big signal.