The 5 barriers to innovation (+ 5 easy-to-implement ideas to solve them)

The 5 barriers to innovation (+ 5 easy-to-implement ideas to solve them)

Any company knows that innovation is important for its success, yet not every business does it. Why?

This can be a complicated process, but we are certain that innovation is for everybody. That is why we have interviewed different companies, entrepreneurs and innovation managers to know what are the barriers to innovation, and most importantly how to solve them with easy-to-implement ideas.

1. People and the idea of risk and uncertainty

Pronouncing the words “we have always done it this way” is really frequent and it is probably the most dangerous sentence you can hear in a company. It is likely that people who say this sentence have good intentions. Actually, the sentence “if it works, don’t fix it” is equally valid sometimes. So, how can we decide which one is the good one? How can we be sure we’re doing the right thing? The main point here is you can’t. 

This is why people and their mindset are one of the major barriers when it comes to innovation. Carrying out innovation projects in a company always implies a certain degree of uncertainty and risk. This essential trait implies that evaluating the potential results of it is difficult or even impossible. The same goes for elaborating a roadmap or a methodology.

Some of the people in your company will opt for one or another. Finding a balance between the two sentences and options is key. 

💡 The solution: Start from a safe place

There are oh-so-many types of innovation, you can choose to start from one program that doesn’t imply a lot of risk and that is fun for employees. Save some hours for employees to get educated on innovation: saving a 1-hour time slot to read or hear about innovation can be a great starting point to know more about and be seduced by it. You can also hold monthly innovation days where employees can come up with small ideas that have an impact on their daily lives.

2. No alignment with the Objective Key Results or lack of leadership from the C-level

Innovation programs can only become a reality when the higher levels of the company have interest in it. While the previous point is all about people's opinions and feelings about innovation, this is about seeing innovation as a strategic movement.

In order for innovation to be a strategic movement, the C-level and company leaders need to be aware of it - lack of leadership goes hand in hand with not aligning innovation with general objectives.

If innovation is not a part of the company’s objectives, it is also likely that employees that work on innovation tasks are poorly valued. Dedicating time to projects that aren’t taken into account for the general objectives may deliver the wrong idea that these employees are not productive. This also has a negative impact on the employees’ self-esteem - everyone needs to feel valued, and this will only lead to frustration and potential bad employee turnover.

💡 The solution: Don’t forget about innovation when you define OKRs

Including innovation in your OKRs is one the easiest ways to ensure it gets done. Other ways to alway keep it in mind is including innovation in the company’s values and mission. This way, employees can also be reminded about it and encouraged to be creative. 

3. Focusing on short-term results only

Any company needs to make money, and this is usually a short-term objective for many companies. Companies that are more prone to innovation are either big, mature companies or startups. The reasons for this statement are easy to figure out.

In the first case, a mature company can think innovation can be a great business opportunity in the long term and isn’t afraid of investing a part of its huge income on it. This type of company has a security net that allows it to take risks without interfering with its current business model or its current objectives.

In the second case, startups’ nature relies on groundbreaking ideas and innovation itself. Plus, if their current business model or ideas don’t end up being successful, it is easy for them to disrupt their business, simply because they have nothing to lose.

Companies in the middle of these two ends can encounter more barriers when it comes to innovation. When all the employees' efforts need to be put on being profitable, thinking about innovation in the long term is beyond challenging.

💡 The solution: Optimize processes

If your company is having a hard time thinking long term, this can actually be a sign that it needs a disruptive change. If this is your case, you will need to identify what is stopping you from thinking long term. Improvements related to this include changes in organization, automating processes or focusing on improving employee performance

4. Lack of resources: time, money, or human

Innovation takes time, money and people, just like any other project that is carried out in a company. 

In order to execute successful innovation programs, talent, time, and money are needed. If your company is running short on some of these, it is likely that you will face a barrier and your programs won’t be delivered. 

💡 The solution: Adapt to you what you can afford

If you’re running short on some of these, you will need to find alternatives.

Not having time is usually linked to not having enough employees, so lack of time and lack of talent may have similar solutions. In order to attract talent, offer valuable perks and the certainty that innovation will be taken seriously. Forget about offering free fruit and try going beyond so you can hire talented innovative people. Numbers show that entrepreneurs prefer working on startups because organizations and processes are more agile and flexible. If you can’t offer a huge salary, we have great news for you: emotional salary is more and more important for employees. Find a balance and adapt to what you can offer, but note that this doesn’t allow you to be petty.

On a side note, public investments depend a lot on the country where you are developing your activity. Numbers show public investment in Spain is 3 times less than in leading countries, such as the United States, Switzerland or Sweden, just to name a few. In this case, you will just need to be aware of your country's possibilities and take advantage of them when you can. 

5. Lack of connections with science or tech

Connections between different institutions build great bridges that benefit all parties involved. Open innovation consists of developing innovative solutions outside the company, with the collaboration of third parties. This is actually one of the most popular types of innovation, since it can deliver great results for all the parties involved, as well as contributing to your brand image. 

If you aren’t connected with external people or have the wrong connections, you will find more obstacles to get what you want. 

💡 The solution: Surround yourself with people who work in innovation

They say you are the average of the people you spend most of your time with. Surrounding yourself with creative and innovative people, especially those who do it professionally, can generate valuable connections for you and your company. In today’s hyperconnected world, making connections is easier than ever: attending conferences, making connections via social media, joining online communities are some of the things you can do to generate a rich network. 

If your company is in a more mature phase or if you think you’re already doing this, go ahead and try an open innovation project. Working along with startups, universities, tech centers or government institutions can generate great synergies.

Not sure how to do this? We can help! Drop us a line and let's chat about your business and its possibilities.

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