THE BLOG

56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail

10/12/2012 05:41 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2012

Innovation is in these days. The word is on the lips of every CEO, CFO, CIO, and anyone else with a three-letter acronym after their name.

As a result, many organizations are launching all kinds of "innovation initiatives" -- hoping to stir the creative soup and differentiate themselves from their competition. This is commendable. But it is also, all too often, a disappointing experience.

Innovation initiatives sound good, but usually don't live up to their expectations. The reasons are many.

What follows are 56 of the most common -- organizational obstacles I've observed during the past 25 years that get in the way of a company being able to successfully turn theory into practice.

See which ones are familiar to you. Then, sit down with your company's Senior Leaders, your boss, or your team and begin figuring out how your organization can avoid these predictable pitfalls.

1. "Innovation" framed as an initiative, not the normal way of doing business
2. Absence of a clear definition of what "innovation" really means
3. Innovation not linked to the company's existing vision or strategy
4. No sense of urgency
5. Workforce suffering from "initiative fatigue"

6. CEO does not fully embrace the effort
7. No compelling vision or reason to innovate
8. Senior Team not aligned
9. Key players don't have the time to focus on innovation
10.Innovation champions not empowered

11. Decision making processes non-existent or fuzzy
12. Lack of trust
13. Risk aversion
14. Overemphasis on cost cutting or incremental improvement
15. Workforce ruled by past assumptions and old mental models

16. No process in place for funding new projects
17. Not enough pilot programs in motion
18. Senior Team not walking the talk
19. No company-wide process for managing ideas
20. Too many turf wars. Too many silos.

21. Analysis paralysis
22. Reluctance to cannibalize existing products and services
23. NIH (not invented here) syndrome
24. Inelegant channels of communication
25. No intrinsic motivation to innovate

26. Unclear gates for evaluating progress
27. Mind numbing bureaucracy
28. Unclear idea pitching processes
29. Lack of clearly defined innovation metrics
30. No accountability for results

31. No way to celebrate quick wins
32. Poorly facilitated meetings
33. No training to unleash individual or team creativity
34. Voo doo evaluation of ideas
35. Insufficient sharing of best practices

36. Lack of teamwork and collaboration
37. Unclear strategy for sustaining the effort
38. Innovation Teams meet too infrequently
39. Middle managers are not on board
40. Ineffective roll out of the effort to the workforce

41. Lack of a game plan to help people think out of the box
42. Innovation initiative perceived as just another "flavor of the month"
43. Individuals don't understand how to be a part of the effort
44. Diverse inputs or conflicting opinions not honored
45. Imbalance of left-brain and right brain thinking

46. Low morale
47. Over-reliance on technology
48. Failure to secure sustained funding
49. Unrealistic time frames
50. Failure to consider issues associated with scaling up

51. Inability to attract talent to risky new ventures
52. Failure to consider commercialization issues
53. No rewards or recognition program
54. No processes in place to ensure fast feedback
55. Inadequate sense of what customers really want or need
56. Company hiring process screens out potential innovators

Others I may have missed? Lay them on me...

Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has been helping organizations innovate since 1986. Mitch is also the author of the very popular Heart of Innovation blog and the award winning business fable, Awake at the Wheel.