By: Ryan Ayers
Does it feel like your efforts in innovation lately have been…lackluster? Are you finding that your team just isn’t coming up with the great ideas you know they can produce? If your business is feeling stale and stagnant, you obviously want to know why, so you can make changes. Innovation efforts aren’t always simple and easy—and there are definitely some roadblocks that can come up along the way. Don’t get discouraged if you run into any of these common problems—you just have to be determined to prevent and work through them whenever possible!
Groupthink is an infamous killer of innovative ideas. It occurs when everyone makes the unspoken decision to simply follow along with what the group thinks. If the most outspoken member of the group proposes an idea, and no one is willing to challenge them, the environment can quickly slide into the trap of groupthink, which stymies innovation and may prevent some of the best ideas from being presented.
Think about having someone play the role of “Devil’s Advocate” at each meeting. This person’s job will be to question and challenge the ideas provided. Since this will be an expected occurrence, it will allow everyone to think critically and develop their own unique entrepreneurial skills. This role should be rotated at every meeting.
If you’re firing on all cylinders all the time, burnout is inevitable—and it can easily be the death of creative thought. Creativity is an absolutely essential component in the innovation process, and teams need the opportunity to clear their minds and access creativity in their own way. Some people can’t come up with their best ideas at their desk—and plenty of rest is necessary for optimal performance and productivity.
Give your team a little breathing room. If your company is condoning an environment of overworking employees, it may be time to take a step back and address that problem. Try to ensure everyone gets adequate time off for rest and relaxation—even solutions like allowing people to telecommute part of the time can help get creative juices flowing. People who work from home report 25% lower stress levels, and show 76% more loyalty to their companies—perfect conditions for encouraging innovation.
3. Lack of Resources
Sometimes, it’s not the lack of inspiration that’s blocking innovation—it’s the cold hard cash or lack of manpower. When innovation teams lack resources, it can be very difficult to get any new ideas off that grounds and into the implementation stage.
Try to emphasize the importance of innovation within the company, and lobby for increased resources. There are creative workarounds you can use (like looking to different departments for new ideas), but the bottom line is that innovation is important, and should have adequate funding and personnel to turn ideas into revenue.
4. Insufficient Trust
Trust is an important component in any business initiative, but it is especially essential in innovation efforts. When there isn’t enough trust among team members and the organization as a whole, the riskier ideas never see the light of day. It’s not safe to fail when there isn’t any trust that failure will be accepted as a normal part of the innovation process. Sometimes, the riskiest ideas end up being the best—and innovation efforts suffer without them.
Encourage people to get out of their comfort zone. Make it clear that failure is a normal part of the process, and they won’t be punished for it.
5. Stopping at Ideas
Ideas are great, but they have to be backed up with action by inspired and engaged employees. Some of the best process management techniques are only as good as the action that’s take afterward. Letting good ideas die in the pipeline is a common innovation pitfall that should be avoided.
Have a process in place for moving ideas down the pipeline. People should see that their ideas will be taken seriously, and will be implemented if they’re a good fit for the organization.
6. Preferential Treatment
Unfortunately, some managers aren’t able to see the value in seeking out diverse opinions. Sometimes, preferential treatment can get in the way of innovation—managers prioritizing the ideas of just a few people, and not encouraging others to speak up. This can happen in either a dedicated innovation team, or when seeking input from the entire company. Of course, fewer ideas with decreased diversity can spell trouble for long-term innovation.
Hire a diverse workforce, and ensure that everyone contributes. In meetings, don’t just wait for the most outspoken person to propose an idea—have several people prepare to present, then have everyone else give both positive and constructive feedback on the ideas presented. It’s important that everyone gets a chance to contribute—and that ideas are vetted carefully.
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.