8 barriers to innovation and how to overcome them

5 min readApr 10, 2017

Achieve remarkable innovation breakthroughs by tapping into creativity throughout your organization.

We live in the Innovation Age, a time in which breakthroughs should be the new normal. Yet there is often a disconnect between the innovation potential of an organization and its ability to deliver breakthroughs. It’s a problem that can be solved through collective creativity.

We dive deeper into this in our free ebook here.

Organizations often misunderstand the essential role of creativity and collective action in producing breakthroughs. Linda Hill, author of the groundbreaking book Collective Genius, explains that “the unavoidable paradox at the heart of innovation is the need to unleash the talents of individuals and, in the end, to harness those talents in the form of a collective innovation that is useful to the organization.”

To infuse innovation and creativity throughout an organization, leaders must intentionally build the ability and willingness of people and teams to produce breakthrough outcomes. What choices can your organization make to accelerate collective creativity and achieve innovation breakthroughs?

1. Innovation Theatrics vs. Everyday Innovation

Innovation theater” is business guru Steve Blank’s term for when companies invest resources into innovation without clear strategy. It’s easier to hype trends, spout buzzwords, and hold photo-ops than it is to do the hard work that innovation requires. Even if your organization is fired up about innovation, the first steps can be daunting.

Everyday innovation is the antidote to innovation theater. It happens when everyone feels continuously encouraged to contribute to innovation. Author Soren Kaplan recommends providing time and structure to support experimentation and creativity. Start simply with everyday innovation, such as by dedicating 20 minutes in weekly meetings to innovation sessions. Remember, you’re rewiring your culture. Have patience with your new structure and follow through consistently.

2. Uniformity vs. Creative Stimulation

Employees are often forced to innovate by top-down mandate, leading to reluctant, uninspired participation of questionable value. The tools for managing innovation can also hinder creativity by being either too simplistic or too process oriented. Without the right motivation and tools, the result will be uniform contributions to innovation.

To achieve innovation breakthroughs, organizations must stimulate creativity and manage innovation in equal measure. Make creativity one of the key skills you look for in potential employees. Use an innovation management tool that has features that enhance creativity. Provide a working environment and offer experiences that nurture people’s creative mindset.

3. The Myth of the Lone Genius vs. Collective Genius

The audacious lone genius is usually celebrated as the source of innovation. But, as innovation advisor Greg Satell put it, no one person “ever has all the pieces of the puzzle.” Thanks to our connected, information-rich world, we can unleash collective genius like never before.

The bigger and more diverse your innovation ecosystem is, the better you can achieve creative breakthroughs. No matter how brilliant your employees may be, don’t stop innovation at your doorstep. By using outside sources, Procter & Gamble has increased productivity, lowered costs, and doubled innovation success. Cisco and other companies are using “speed innovation” to bring together like-minded organizations to ignite innovation.

4. Innovation Privilege vs. Innovation Community

In traditional workplaces, innovation typically remains the privilege of the few, based on seniority, department or location. But, that kind of restriction on the top of the innovation funnel impedes innovation success. The most valuable breakthrough ideas often come from the farthest corners of the organization.

To encourage change and engagement, build an inclusive innovation community with shared principles and responsibility. Appoint senior leaders as sponsors of organization-wide innovation efforts. Make it part of your organizational DNA to recognize, incentivize and reward innovation participants through a combination of gamification and perks.

5. Consequences vs. Safe Space

Pity the organization where people fear the consequences of suggesting change. Fear is an innovation killer. Try to produce innovation in a culture of fear and you’ll see the same result: the loudest or highest paid person’s idea will prevail, while others give up after failing to see their contributions valued.

Innovation culture must provide a safe space for new ideas to emerge without fear or consequence. Every contributor should feel secure enough to speak up and to experiment collectively. In this space, fellow contributors, not just supervisors, will share feedback on how to make a new idea more valuable and implementable. Safe and anonymous environments create conditions in which every person will be equally likely to contribute valuable ideas.

6. Incrementalism vs. Innovation Flow

Incrementalism is an organization’s inability to continuously and remarkably reinvent itself through innovation. It manifests in risk aversion, a resistance to change, inadequate feedback mechanisms, and cumbersome decision-making. Incrementalism is what happens when people falsely believe they must choose either efficiency or innovation, but not both.

When these principles are in place, the result is an efficient innovation flow that leads to breakthroughs. Discovered by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a state of activity in which a person’s efforts become more agile and nimble, and they and their organization operate at peak performance. To cultivate innovation flow, use both digital and in-person activities to inspire the high levels of creativity, experience, and engagement that lead to breakthroughs.

7. Not Invented Here vs. Collective Commitment

“Not Invented Here” is a restrictive mindset rooted in personal ego or group loyalty. This mindset lets people cling to a single individual’s idea as the only possible solution. It also leads people to reject an idea simply because it originated in a different team, department or division. Organizations that hinder the creative confluence of ideas in this way doom innovation to failure.

Collective commitment is a more successful innovation approach. It establishes that the worth of an idea is based only on its merits, not its source. Nor are ideas the end goal. Instead, people work together to strengthen and refine ideas, and collaborate toward successful implementation. Collective commitment values everyone’s contributions, creating a shared sense of purpose and achievement.

8. Inadequate Tools vs. Human-Centric Innovation Engine

Here’s the caveat: Your organization’s creative potential is dependent on the right tools. Your current tools may be familiar and comforting, but they’ll hinder innovation if they’re not designed to spark creativity. Surveys and idea boxes keep contributors from engaging with other people’s ideas. Sticky notes are hard to integrate into ongoing efforts that result in true innovation breakthroughs.

For collective creativity to be continuously engaging, pick technology-enhanced innovation tools that are a fit for the modern digital world. Look for software designed to stimulate people’s natural urge to create and invent. Prioritize human-centric choices that empower everyone to live up to the promise of the Innovation Age through their individual and collective potential.

This guideline came from Be-novative: How to overcome innovation barriers with Collective Creativity.

Be-novative is the Collective Creativity cloud platform built for innovation breakthroughs using creativity stimulation with innovation management based on gamification, crowdsourcing and design thinking principles. Learn more about how they’re helping organizations achieve breakthroughs here.

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Be-novative is a Design Thinking and Innovation platform that helps organizations build breakthroughs collaboratively. http://be-novative.com @benovative