Three Hurdles To Innovation

...and how to overcome them

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Every leader wants to innovate. To break with tradition and bring in new-and-improved version of products in the marketplace is a necessity in today’s fast changing economy… but it’s not always easy to accomplish. Obstacles to innovation will surface – it’s a matter of when, not if – and to succeed, today’s leaders and change-makers must be armed with the possible pitfalls and how to overcome them. Here are the three most common obstacles I’ve heard over the years- and how I challenge leaders to address them.

Obstacle #1: The Never-Ending Project

For many businesses, new projects take months to complete. The problem with this process is, if something’s not right with the end result, you either find you’ve just wasted months or even years of your time, money, and other resources. The even more problematic situation is when leaders continue to sink money into a dead-end project because they have also spent thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars and stopping means admitting they’ve made a mistake.

What to do: Break up your project into shorter, more focused, stages. A two-week stage where your team only focuses on a single feature or aspect of the end product will be more effective because you will catch and correct potential flaws quickly and get back on-track. Pressure cooker situations (well moderated, of course) can create an influx of new ideas, systems, and processes as people feel the time crunch and start getting creative about how they can meet this short term target quicker or easier.

Obstacle #2: Lack of Time

It’s easy to get caught up in meeting short-term goals, which leaves little time for big picture thinking. Is innovation a core value? Are you ensuring it is part of your day to day operations? Or is time the limiting factor?

What to do: Make innovation a priority. Decide how to funnel creative ideas through every level in your company. Make a game out of it. Instill a reward system that incentivizes people to come up with new ideas. Just remember to ensure that no-one is made to feel their idea is bad or too far-fetched. A big plus in including employees at all levels in the organization is the support you get. People rally behind ideas when they feel they’ve been in on the creative process. Group cohesion is a great project accelerator.

Which leads me to….

Obstacle #3: Fear of Change

Everyone agrees change is good but nobody likes to be the one to change. We are creatures of habit and anything that breaks our routine or threatens our beliefs about how things work or how things should be done brings up fear and resistance. This means that if big numbers in the group and/or key influencers do not embrace the innovation, you have an obstacle on your hands.

What to do: Instill a culture that embraces change. Coach team members to approach their role with a spirit of playfulness. Yes, targets must be met. Yes, revenue streams must be there. However, sometimes people are so bent on enhancing what they currently have and calling that innovation, that they miss the opportunity to disrupt the current model and take their project in a completely new, but more fruitful, direction. Give people confidence by sharing how change has helped you to get to where you are now. Change won’t happen over time. However, when people fear less, and are given permission to fail, they take greater risks. And risk-taking is at the heart of innovation.

Originally published at

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