I’ve worked with organizations of all types and all sizes, and they all have the same thing in common when it comes to their innovation performance: they deliberately block it.
Knowingly, or unknowingly they block it.
How? By not creating an environment that drives innovation; a culture.
To find out, all you have to do is walk through the halls and ask employees a few questions and pay attention to their answers:
- Are you given the opportunity to express yourself and your ideas?
- Do you feel empowered to solve problems without having to ask for permission?
Usually, people answer NO to both of these questions. And, that’s all I need to know.
Innovation can be a challenging process within an organization, and there are several common blockers that can impede its progress. With that said, what are the biggest blockers of innovation in an organization?
Leaders, it’s time to pull out your pen and write this down. Some of the biggest blockers of innovation in an organization include:
- Fear of failure. Employees may be hesitant to take risks and propose new ideas out of fear of failure. This fear can be reinforced by a culture that punishes mistakes or a lack of support for experimentation.
- Bureaucracy. Organizations with complex hierarchies and bureaucratic processes can make it difficult for new ideas to be heard and implemented. Specifically, organizations that are led by command and control freaks with a conventional mindset.
- Lack of resources. Innovation often requires investment in research and development, and organizations may be unwilling or unable to allocate the necessary resources.
- Risk aversion. Organizations may be risk-averse, and prioritize preserving the status quo over pursuing new opportunities.
- Lack of diversity. A lack of diversity in an organization can lead to groupthink and a lack of new perspectives, which can inhibit innovation.
- Short-term focus. Organizations that are focused on short-term financial goals may be less willing to invest in long-term innovation projects.
- Lack of communication. Innovation often requires collaboration and communication across different departments and teams, and a lack of communication can impede progress.
- Inflexible culture. an inflexible culture can inhibit innovation, as it may not be willing to change its processes and ways of working to accommodate new ideas.
- Lack of leadership support. Innovation requires leadership support, both in terms of encouraging employees to come up with new ideas and in terms of allocating the resources necessary to put those ideas into practice.
- Fear and resistance to change. Employees may be resistant to change and to new ideas, especially if they are comfortable with the status quo and fear that new ideas will disrupt their work or their role in the organization.
Bottom line: Innovation happens when leaders create an environment, a culture, where curiosity, questioning, and experimentation are celebrated. It happens when leaders support teams with great ideas, and provide the necessary resources to get the ball rolling. It happens when ideas are given the chance to survive. It happens when leaders lead.
You see, innovation is just another code word for leadership. And, leaders need to eliminate the blockers in order to unleash innovation in their organization.