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7 big threats to innovation and how to overcome them

Sarah K. White | Oct. 23, 2015
Innovation isn’t easy, but it’s fundamental to a successful business in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven economy. These seven threats to corporate innovation that are hampering your business’ agility. Here’s how to conquer them.

Innovation is the cornerstone of a successful business, so why is it so elusive to many companies? To determine the biggest roadblocks, consulting firm Imaginatik conducted a study of 200 professionals in its "State of Global Innovation" report. 35 percent of those surveyed were senior management, board members or C-Suite executives, and 76 percent of respondent's organizations had 1,000 employees or more. The results offer insight into what makes innovation stall at large companies.

There's little doubt that business leaders see the value of innovation -- 95 percent of respondents say it's important enough to be a priority for C-level executives. However, while nearly every professional agreed that innovation was key, 44 percent reported that their business invested less than 2 percent of its annual operating budgets in innovation and 63 percent said their company didn't have a formal innovation-management structure in place.

"There are all sort of approximate indicators of a business and management system that's not designed for innovation and what's next, but is designed for a mature steady-state market," says Chris Townsend, CMO of Imaginatik. According to Townsend, companies tend to view innovation as something they can "fix," when, in reality, innovation is about overcoming obstacles and reimagining processes -- and sometimes the entire organization -- from the ground up, while incorporating assets the business already has.

What's stopping companies from creating an environment that encourages innovation? Imaginatik's study reveals seven threats that corporations need to overcome.

The wrong culture

The phrase "corporate culture" is thrown around a lot, but what does it mean? It might mean free sodas and snacks, casual Fridays, or monthly team-building exercises. Corporate culture can point to anything that makes your company feel like more than just a place where you work 40 or more hours a week.

While corporate culture can be a positive aspect of innovation for some companies, it can also be a hindrance. For example, if your company's culture is more about politics and bureaucracy, it's probably going to stifle innovation. Of the 200 professionals surveyed, 55 percent cited issues with organizational culture and mindset as the number 1 reason innovation fails. Imaginatik's study states that "respondents lamented how the invisible forces of conservatism and complacency conspire to thwart well-intended efforts to advance the innovation cause."

An employee or team might come up with an innovative idea, but if the systems aren't in place for them to act on that idea, or the company has a history of letting the ball drop, they might not make the effort. Company culture can say a lot about the potential for innovation. If innovation feels out of place to people, or seems too difficult, it will be hard to make that shift.

 

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