We hear plenty of advice for leaders on what they should do to drive entrepreneurship and innovation in their organizations. It might be smarter to just stop making some of the common mistakes which inhibit innovation. 

Here is a list of things that leaders should definitely not do.

  1. Do not encourage people to contribute ideas unless you mean to act on them. Brainstorms, away-days, offsite meetings and other activities will generate many great ideas but unless there is concrete action to implement the best ideas then these sessions become demotivational.
  2. Do not encourage experimentation and then criticise failure.
  3. Do not make fine speeches about innovation and expect people to change. They listen to your words but believe your actions.
  4. Do not start a suggestions scheme unless you put resources in place to implement the best ideas.
  5. Do not state that innovation is a priority unless you put resources, metrics and objectives in place to support it.
  6. Do not waste time on flashy gimmicks to encourage creativity in the office. Focus instead on eliminating the barriers which are impeding innovation in the business today.
  7. Do not stop explaining the vision for change and why it is so important. Once or twice is not enough. You have to keep selling the destination and telling people how their contribution is essential to getting there.
  8. Do not get wedded to your own pet innovation project – it has to pass the same tests as every other program.
  9. Do not complain that your organization is risk averse and then blame someone for trying something that did not work.
  10. Do not tell people to be more innovative but keep them so busy that they have no time for experimentation.
  11. Do not miss the opportunity to celebrate success and praise the entrepreneurs inside the company.
  12. Do not appoint a Chief Innovation Officer and think that has solved the problem. There is so much else that you must do in setting the vision, culture and processes for innovation.
  13. Do not set up an Innovation Incubator without getting the full support and commitment of department heads.
  14. Do not focus on short term goals and problems. Delegate these issues and focus on the strategic things that only you can do.
  15. Do not talk the innovation talk unless you walk the innovation walk.

If you want more innovation in your business just stop doing the things which are preventing it.

About the author

Paul Sloane is the author of The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills and The Innovative Leader. He writes, talks and runs workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and the leadership of innovation. Find more information at



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