By: Ryan Ayers
Before investing in your company’s innovation development, it’s important to develop a strategy for collecting and evaluating ideas. Having guidelines in place to thoroughly vet ideas, value diverse opinions, prioritize scalable and sustainable results, and other areas of innovation management can set you up for success over the long term.
So you’ve decided to invest in innovation development. Great! Innovation is always good. Isn’t it? It is, if it’s managed well. After all, not all ideas are going to become the company’s next big priority—only a select number of ideas will make it past the drawing board. Getting caught up in the excitement of innovation development can be exciting, but it’s important to take a step back and become aware of the potential pitfalls of innovation development. By being aware of these pitfalls before they occur, you can avoid many of the problems that come along with innovation efforts. Here are 6 pitfalls to be aware of so your team can practice productive innovation.
1. Not having a system for finding and vetting ideas
Ideas are great—when they leave the room and are actually given a chance to grow and develop. If you’re all fired up to start fielding ideas from your team members, first make sure you have some systems in place. First, make sure you have a venue for submitting ideas—whether that’s in a structured meeting, brainstorming session, or other forum. Then, you’ll need to have a system for vetting ideas, or you risk great ideas slipping through the cracks and mediocre ideas rising to the top.
2. Only valuing certain opinions
As much as we try to avoid favoritism in business, it does exist. And unfortunately, that can lead to some team members’ opinions and ideas being valued over everyone else’s. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity and encouragement to explore and submit their own ideas to the group. Diverse opinions lead to greater innovation, and it’s very important to make sure that you get ideas coming from different perspectives and backgrounds.
3. Forgetting to thoroughly evaluate ideas
It’s easy to get up in the “high” of an idea that seems great—on the surface. Unfortunately, while some ideas may look great at first glance, they may be impractical, unsustainable, or simply not aligned with the company’s goals. Once an idea has gotten past initial vetting, it should be further evaluated to weigh the risks and benefits of successful implementation. This won’t prevent failure of some of these initiatives, but it should improve chances for success overall.
4. Prioritizing short-term results
Innovation, while based on ideas that can come out of the blue, isn’t a short term growth solution. It takes time to develop innovation initiatives, and the results of implementation can’t be analyzed a day later. Patience is a necessary element of any innovation development, and initiatives need to be given time to build up steam and produce real results. Prioritizing short-term results and increased revenue immediately just sets innovation development up for failure.
5. Relying on groupthink
We all want everyone to get along—and we all want everyone to agree that our ideas are great. Unfortunately, this can snowball into “groupthink,” a phenomenon which occurs when members of a group simply agree to promote harmony in the group and to fit in, not because they really do agree with the others. There are several tactics that can be used to fight groupthink, including requiring everyone to submit both positive and negative feedback for ideas and appointing a “devil’s advocate” for each meeting, who is assigned to ask difficult questions and challenge others who submit ideas. Groupthink kills innovation, so it’s important to nip it in the bud quickly. Project managers should think ahead and prevent groupthink before it starts, ideally. It may be a comfortable way to operate, but innovation is all about productive discomfort!
6. Focusing on one type of innovation
It’s not very innovative to just think about one kind of innovation, is it? Of course, it’s not productive to jump around constantly and think about innovative ideas for growth, product development, customer service, and marketing in rapid fire, but if you ONLY focus on innovation for, say, marketing, that leaves a lot of opportunity on the table. Prioritize your goals for your innovation efforts, and make sure to put some time and energy into different innovation types for more balanced growth.
By Ryan Ayers
About the author
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.