There is a tendency in business to seek the magic formula that will produce breakthrough products and services. However, this breakthrough is much less likely to happen if there are barriers to innovation, especially in firms that already have lots of talented, creative, and motivated people. A recent article by Ron Ashkenas in the Harvard Business Review suggests that by removing barriers, it might be possible to accelerate innovation simply by leveraging the capability that’s already there.
Ashkenas identifies ten common inhibitors that can dampen an organisation’s ability to innovate effectively:
1. Our focus on short-term results drives out ideas that take longer to mature.
2. Fear of cannibalising current business prevents investment in new areas.
3. Most of our resources are devoted to day-to-day business so that few remain for innovative prospects.
4. Innovation is someone else’s job and not part of everyone’s responsibilities.
5. Our efficiency focus eliminates free time for fresh thinking.
6. We do not have a standard process to nurture the development of new ideas.
7. Incentives are geared towards maximising today’s business and reducing risk.
8. Managers are not trained to be innovation leaders.
9. Managers immediately look for flaws in new ideas rather than tease out their potential.
10. We look at opportunities through internal lenses rather than starting with customers’ needs and problems.
Ashkenas suggests using this list of inhibitors and possibly others as a springboard for dialogue about your company’s innovation practices and culture.
Peter Williams Chief Edge Officer of Deloitte Australia believes that innovation should be embedded into the culture of organisations – “not something we just talk about, but something we have actually done”, where “anybody can put an idea into our system 24/7 and expect it to be looked at within two weeks”. According to Williams, social media can increase organisational capability in this respect. Through social media, people have the ability to go beyond their brief and transcend the function limitations of their designation, effectively by crowd sourcing. “We suddenly see an organisation become an ecosystem or a network as opposed to an organisational chart”, says Williams.
Organisations become flatter as people participate in a wider conversation, with the organisation becoming more flexible and nimble and information flowing without the organisation having to plan for it. iHR believes that a key aspect of leadership is bringing out diverse talents and letting them bloom. As Ashkenas observes, “all of us in organisations have the capability to innovate. Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way”.