Ten Innovation Red Flags

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					             Ten Red Flags for Innovation

There's no surefire way to guarantee success in innovation.
Stefan Lindegaard offers 10 helpful suggestions of
common pitfalls to avoid
By Stefan Lindegaard

What are the signs that innovation in a company is set up to fail? Wouldn't
it be great to have a checklist on this? Unfortunately, innovation is too
complicated and company-specific for one standard rule.

It is possible, however, to become better at spotting the signs of failure.

Here's a list (in no particular order) of the red flags I look for when I talk
with executives and innovation leaders trying to get an understanding of
their corporate innovation capabilities.

• The lack of an innovation strategy
Executives and innovation leaders have failed to link innovation with
overall corporate strategy. As a result, the innovation efforts have no clear
direction, and there is not the necessary mix of incremental and radical
innovation. No strategy, no focused effort, no results.

• No definition of innovation
Innovation means different things to different people. Every company
should develop its own definition that fits its situation and should use this
definition to build a common language for innovation initiatives.

• Too much focus on internal capabilities
The future of innovation is open and global. Who will understand this first?
You? Or your competitors?
• Too much focus on open innovation
Yes, you need to go open, but open innovation is not the Holy Grail. A key
to innovation success is the ability to combine internal and external
resources and be in a position to act on opportunities.

• Internal silos are too firmly ingrained
If you cannot make innovation happen across your own business units and
functions, how could you possibly expect your innovation to sing beyond
your company borders?

• Too much focus on ideas and too little focus on people
People and processes matter more than ideas. Yet too few companies
establish programs in which they can identify and develop the right people
and match these people with the right ideas at the right time.

• Lack of a strong networking culture
Although executives might acknowledge the value of relationships, they
often undervalue the importance of a strong innovation culture. People can
figure this out by themselves, they say. Not true. Executives need to
establish networking strategies and employees need training that fits those
strategies, along with the time to build and nurture relationships.

• Innovation efforts focus on technology or products
Most companies do not work with innovation models, such as the Ten
Types of Innovationdeveloped by consultancy Doblin. In that instance,
executives are led to focus on innovation within four main categories;
finance, process, offering, and delivery. This can help employees and
external partners view innovation in a more holistic way.

• It's all about the usual suspects
Innovation champions and other elite units can work, but the setup of such
departments often sends the signal that those guys will take care of it. Other
employees might think they do not need to get involved. Sure, everyone
should not work with innovation at the same time, but programs or
platforms that give everyone opportunities to get involved need to be put in
place, too.
• Executives and innovation leaders underestimate the speed of
Just look at open innovation, where the race is on for all companies, large
and small, to become the preferred partner of choice. That way, they can
claim the best positions, begin to build strong, stable ecosystems, and win a
short-term race that brings long-term value. Things are changing fast, and
executives need to move equally fast to claim their position. Yet too many
companies have not even begun thinking about open innovation yet. That
could prove costly in the long run.

Those are my 10 signs that an innovation initiative is doomed. What do you
think? What others can you add?

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Description: Improve your company's performance by removing these red flags.