The 15 Enemies of Innovation

enemies of innovationWhen I put my consultant hat on I have a very easy way to detect whether or not your company is committed to innovation, and whether or not it will: the way you lead and prioritize.

My examination has nothing to do with capability, but with leadership. You see, leadership is another code word for innovation. And your organization will eventually fail if your leadership is focused on protecting the present instead of the past.

I’m looking for evidence that you’re playing to win; not to lose.

It’s human nature to protect what one has built, and lose the “nothing to lose” spirit that all startups are born with. This is why established organizations are competing against their own human nature. Still, innovative organizations are not immune from falling into the complacency trap; they just have mechanisms in place to make it harder for their culture to fall into it.

Innovative organizations understand that innovation has many enemies, some seen and others unseen, and its leaders are actively involved in keeping them at bay.

What enemies?

As they grow and mature, established organizations develop many obstacles that impede innovation. Recently, Vala Afshar listed 12 of these as enemies of innovation:

I would add three more: complacency, expertise and groupthink.

  1. Culture of blame;
  2. No safe space to experiment;
  3. Desire to please everyone;
  4. Big egos;
  5. Self-doubt;
  6. Micro-management of talent;
  7. Fear of failure;
  8. Too much process rigor;
  9. Impatience;
  10. Abundance of resources;
  11. HIPPO’s;
  12. Measuring effort vs. results;
  13. Complacency;
  14. Curse of knowledge (expertise);
  15. Groupthink.

Examine the list and you’ll notice that the biggest obstacle to transformation is human nature; this is why innovation is as much about attitude and perspective as it is about process.

Subtract to innovate

I’ve been asked by CEO’s and Executives about how their companies can innovate. It’s the wrong question. The correct question is: what are we doing to impede innovation?

Organizations suck at innovation because they treat it as addition – adding more activities to what one already does – when what should be done is to eliminate that which prevents it in the first place; the 15 enemies mentioned above.

Comfort, is the enemy of progress. Just like individuals do, companies get in their own way of progress. The way forward to a new and better destination is to eliminate the CRAP which impedes progress; subtract to innovate.

Want to start? Check out my article on how to solve these challenges for a more elaborate explanation.