7 big threats to innovation and how to overcome them

Sarah K. White

"Most innovation activities feel foreign at first within a large corporation, because they tend to cut laterally across normal workplace habits and practices," according to the study. Imaginatik acknowledges that it can difficult be for a company to instill a successful innovation program, but with the right focus and efforts, it's possible.

Lack of follow-through

One of the biggest threats to innovation within a company is a lack of follow-through. Coming up with innovative ideas is sometimes the easy part. Seeing them through is harder. In the study, 34 percent of respondents reported a lack of follow-through as one of the biggest issues they encounter.

Respondents said that they feel innovation efforts are often "applied scattershot," and that "they fail to create synergies and scaled practices throughout the innovation lifecycle." Or, employees feel the company had good ideas, but go about applying the ideas in an "inconsistent or undisciplined manner." The bottom line is that if it isn't easy for employees to use a new process or for them to enact innovative ideas, they will fizzle out before they can gain any traction.

Companies that are successful in driving innovation oftentimes have a team or person dedicated to innovation. Whether it's hiring a CIO or vice president of global innovation, Townsend says that this person is generally "separate from your main line business unit that has core incentives of pushing market share and winning against competition."

Limited funding and resources

Innovation doesn't just happen because people want it. Your company needs to apply funding and resources. Of the professionals polled, only 16 percent reported "aggressive investments" in a dedicated innovation staff and 13 percent reported a similar level of investment behind innovation tools and technologies. Twenty-seven to 53 percent, depending on the category, reported only "moderate" investment behind innovation spending.

"Investment was needed in a better tool and some people. This was where it stopped. The business wants to continue the 'prototype' approach, with no investment or staff," said one senior executive at a multi-billion dollar logistics services and financial corporation.

"Regardless of who leads innovation, resourcing is a topic of central concern," Imaginatik states in the study. Given the low proportion of companies reporting aggressive investments in any major spending category, it appears that innovation is being systematically under-funded in most of today's companies."

Lack of time

Employees already feel pressure to get more done in less time, so adding innovative ideas can quickly overwhelm workers. And in a large company, where everyone has a specific job to do, the communication might not exist to figure out how to work across departments to make innovation successful within a 40-hour week.

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