7 big threats to innovation and how to overcome them

Sarah K. White

Twenty-seven percent of respondents listed a lack of time and focus as a major hindrance to innovation. And, unfortunately, instigating major changes on a large scale takes just that: time and focus. When it comes to investing time in innovation, don't skimp just because you aren't sure how it will make the company money, Imaginatik says.

On the bright side, according to the study, leaders are aware of the need to invest time if they want to see their company become more innovative. For executives, there needs to be a general acceptance that innovation won't result in instant gratification. Rather, changes and progress will be seen over time, and it might take years, not months.

Low adoption rate

The Imaginatik study unveiled another common trend at companies: low adoption rates. People come up with new ideas, figure out how to enact them but find that they fizzle out quickly as employees struggle to integrate the changes into their day-to-day processes. The study points to a "lack of belief in the approach itself," while some respondents reported seeing innovative programs get off to a great start, only to be abandoned soon after. Some simply felt skeptical or weary of adopting new programs because of past failures or poor performance.

Other businesses reported some teams or business unit teams adopting innovative processes that they didn't extend to the rest of the company. This inconsistency across the business unit can cause innovation to die quickly, with only some teams using new tools or adopting new process and others sticking with the old way of doing things.

"Several other respondents noted that because innovation methods are often applied scattershot and in localized settings, they fail to create synergies and scaled practices throughout the innovation lifecycle," the study reports.

Keeping up with fast-paced changes

For large, process-driven companies, it can be hard to keep up with the fast pace of technology. And larger companies have more risks when instigating change within the organization.

"Larger, more-established companies have lots of legacy tech, they have brand equity, shareholders, usually a large base of existing customers, a company culture, very highly scaled leveraged process and so on," says Townsend. "All of these things are assets, but for innovation they can also be liabilities."

When compared to a startup, bigger companies might find it more difficult to innovate like startups do. Startups may not have the same assets as larger businesses, but they also don't have the liabilities, so it's easier for them to be agile.

Townsend says some companies should consider reshaping departments to run more like a startup. It's unreasonable to think a company with more than 1,000 employees could function like a business with 100 employees, but by targeting certain departments, larger companies can reap the benefits of a startup culture.

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