Failure of an organization to be innovative is not due to the lack of desire. Most organizations want to be innovative. Failure often lies in what the organization does in its attempt to be more innovative. The plans and initiatives directed at making an organization more innovative are often flawed. The result is an unfortunate negative cycle: attempts are tried, attempts fail, the organization loses interest in trying to be more innovative.
The key to breaking the cycle is to understand what and why attempts fail. Below are a few attempts to be innovative which frequently fail:
• A bigger hammer: When organizations fail, they often believe that trying harder is the answer. While this in part may be true, there comes a point when it’s time to try something new. The answer is not to get a bigger hammer, but to get a different tool altogether. This is readily apparent when an organization iterates a successful product or idea to the point of oblivion. If something at first succeeds, just keep doing it bigger and over and over again. The result is over saturation and weariness for what once succeeded. The trick is to know when to quit. The key to not falling into the bigger hammer trap is to have a number of other ideas waiting in the wings.
• Shifting the burden: Organizations often make the mistake of shifting the burden of being innovative to an innovation department. They designate a special group of people for the task of inventing new ideas. Sometimes, they even banish them to an “innovation center” where they can be left alone to make the magic happen. The problem with this idea lies in its very design.
The design uncouples innovation from the organization. Those in the innovation department become removed from the organization. The ideas they create may be new, but often they lack the context to make them successful.
The key to not failing is not to view innovation at all as a department.
• Let’s get more people like us: Some organizations think the path to innovation is to hire industry experts or steal people away from their competition. For some, this might create a temporary fix as new people try their old ideas. However, innovation does not lie in the path of like-mindedness. Innovation comes about as a result of the creative tension between different points of view.