The fuzzy front end of innovation confronts you with a lot of questions. For the new edition of my book ‘Creating innovative Products and Services’ I have posted a question on front-end innovation struggles to innovation practioners in more than 20 linkedin groups. The response was massive. I made a list of forty reasons why people struggle starting innovation in their companies in daily practice.

A. Culture

  • We are uncertain if we can be creative and come up with ideas.
  • How do we change our existing habits?
  • There are too little ideas because people don’t dare to think innovative any more.
  • A lot of people are lazy, just copying others work.
  • There is a substantial lack of curiosity among people in our company.
  • How to get key people in our organization aware of the need for innovation?
  • People don’t really believe that innovation is truly going to happen.
  • We lack the ability to invoke change, the ability to change the mindset of we’ve always done it that way.
  • We do not have the guts (mind power) to bring an idea.
  • Our past innovations were not successful and have cost a lot of money. This blocks new initiatives.
  • Our short-term mindset overrules the long-term mindset and vision to innovate.
  • There is no vision where we want to go in the future as a company.

B. Uncertainty

  • Ideas are too ambitious therefore we can’t imagine how they ever will be feasible.
  • It’s very hard to imagine the future.
  • We fear failure.
  • Those in our company that don’t understand the idea or new product will attack and ridicules the newness of it.
  • The critical thing at the front end in our company is the demonstration of the positive bottom-line impact of the new service or product.

C. Support

  • The hardest part of beginning an innovation is trying to get the support for the idea of innovation.
  • How do I share my ideas with others in the company efficient?
  • How to create sponsorship for innovation at the top?
  • How to communicate ideas to the right people?
  • How do you convince each internal stakeholder they benefit from innovation?
  • Negativity – “we tried it x numbers of ago, it does not work in our environment” – is the biggest stumbling block in our company.
  • How do we get consensus on a solution from majority of the stakeholders?

D. Market Insights

  • Often customers don’t even know themselves what they would want or benefit from.
  • We struggle to get inside the head of the purchaser of the product or service.
  • How to uncover the true customer need?

E. Process & Tools

  • Our innovation process is not well organized.
  • There are too many ideas from which it is hard to choose.
  • We do not stick to the original idea. Instead we take often the easier way.
  • How do we decide what is a good idea?
  • How do you filter ideas and at what point in the process do you throw out ideas?
  • Everyone is talking about innovation, but few know what to start doing differently to make it happen.
  • How do we select of the right technology/platform?
  • It is difficult to translate the results of user studies into the language of technology development.

G. Team

  • How do we guide the new product development team so that their ideas are in line with the company’s strategy?
  • We do not have the right people in the room for the opportunity.
  • Ideas are stopped because we do not have resources related to the needed talent.
  • It is challenging for us to get internal teams to think beyond what made our company successful thus far.

Of course this is not a scientific proven list. I see it more as ‘a cry for help’ from innovation practitioners in their daily work.

In my book ‘Creating innovative Products and Services’ I introduce a structured innovation method, called FORTH. User feedback on this structured ideation approach shows that the strength of a structured ideation approach like the FORTH innovation method is in 5 aspects:

  1. The innovation assignment at the start gives clear focus and expectations,
  2. The team discovers relevant customer insights themselves,
  3. The best innovative concepts are approved by customer,
  4. You return with four practical mini new business cases,
  5. The team approach creates internal support (at the top level).

So It deals with a lot of the forty above mentioned struggles. You can download thirteen checklists on the FORTH innovation method for free. I wish you a lot of success solving your struggles at the front end of innovation.

About the author:


Gijs van Wulfen (The Netherlands, 1960) is the founder of the FORTH innovation method. FORTH is an effective and structured method for ideating innovative products and services. The method is published in his inspiring and practical book Creating Innovative Products and Services’ (Gower, 2011).


He helps organisations to kick start innovation by facilitating the FORTH innovation method and advising companies on their innovation strategy, process and organisation. His clients are international companies in industry and services, as well as non-profit organisations in government and health. Gijs also trains facilitators in his method. His dream is to make FORTH the most used method for the front end of innovation around the world.


Gijs is a both presenter and chairman at several (international) innovation conferences, like the ISPIM Conferences and the European Conference on Creativity and Innovation. He is also founder of the yearly Dutch Innovation Conference on creating new products: ‘Nieuwe Producten Bedenken’.