In my innovation workshops with leaders, I often ask them to list the barriers to innovation. These usually include such items as:
> Not enough resources, for example: time and money
> Slow approvals
> Existing workloads
> Company size
> Existing policy and procedures.
Removing those barriers sounds sensible, but many items are outside the control of the leadership team. For example, leaders will always be busy and time-poor. Company size cannot usually be changed quickly.
I find a more productive approach is to focus on the “innovation accelerators”. These factors often turbo-charge innovation momentum and success.
A downfall in performance
One of the biggest drivers of a renewed emphasis on innovation is a shortfall in performance against a budget or ideal goal. In this case the managers realise that a business-as-usual approach is not working and new ideas and initiatives are needed.
A successful competitive move
There is nothing like a winning move by a direct competitor to galvanise a leadership team. The motivation for greater creativity and innovation can come in all forms and losing in the marketplace can be a big blow to the business and to egos.
Pressure from retailers
In the packaged goods industry one of the biggest accelerators of new thinking is the demand from powerful retailers to bring some life and energy to a particular category.
Head office directives
For many multinational businesses in Australia, a primary driver of innovation is a head-office directive along the lines of “in the next 12 months I would like to see what progress has been made on the innovation front”, signed by the international CEO.
Changes in technology
The iPad is a good example of how a change in technology might open up new thinking and opportunities. Perhaps a new business presentation or sales order can be facilitated via an iPad, for example, rather than filling in a paper-based form.
Establish a key innovation metric for leaders. “What gets measured gets done” is the business maxim. Move from a “nice to do” to a “must-do” by setting a key metric for leaders, for example, 40% of revenue must come from products that are less than three years old. That will focus senior management attention.
My message is this: innovation success cannot be guaranteed but it can be focused and fast-tracked using some or all of these accelerators.