It's a sad fact that while so many of us possess innovative skills and talent (yes you already are innovative), the organisations that we work with seem to have systems, processes and even people that do their best to suppress innovation.

Unless we have the good fortune to work for a start up organisation, it's most likely that our organisation has a performance mindset and a risk averse approach to doing business. While it makes sense to improve performance and minimise risk, if we do it without allowing innovation our competitors are going to sail on past us to conquer the new territories and markets of the world.

Innovation is essential in any organisation and what we need to do is ensure that improving the performance of what we are already doing doesn't get in the way of new innovative activities that we could be doing to create new opportunities that exceed our existing performance and returns.

The top 20 key suppressors to innovation in an organisation are

  • Only looking for fine tuning improvements such as efficiencies.
  • Believing that the existing product or service currently delivered is the only focus of opportunity.
  • Not allowing time for new product or service ideas.
  • Refusing to be leading edge with a new market idea.
  • Not allowing rapid small prototyping of ideas.
  • Shooting ideas down before they can be explained in the idea generation (ideation) stage.
  • Looking for group consensus (democratic vote) without proper explanation of the ideas potential and background.
  • Over-complicated submission procedures to initiate new projects/ ideas such as having to go to numerous committees or approval groups to even start developing an idea concept.
  • Not having a time-sheet code for innovation (for organisations that insist on using time sheets).
  • Not providing innovation skills training.
  • Silo teams that have no cross collaboration.
  • Leaders/ Managers who do not want to or know how to recognise innovation.
  • An organisational culture that do not encourage everyday innovative rituals.
  • Allowing fault finding mindsets to dominate a group without  allowing opportunity mindsets in the room.
  • An organisation that limit access to clients/ customers and therefore prevent understanding user and customer needs, expectations etc.
  • Discarding the importance of inventions, products or service from unrelated industries.
  • Preventing people who were involved in the idea generation phase to be involved in the development and execution of an idea.
  • Creating isolated innovation teams that work in isolation and do not involve the rest of the organisation except in execution.
  • Having a non transparent idea approval process.
  • Not allowing teams to have fun in their work.

20 Simple strategies to tackle innovation suppression in an organisation

  • Looking for new service/ product offerings that add value to users/ customers.
  • Encouraging vigorous interrogation/ challenging of existing processes/ products and core services by asking, what would we need to do if we couldn't do this core service/ product any more? What would we need to do to survive?
  • Allowing time for new product or service idea generation
  • Choosing to be leading edge with a new market idea, but minimising risk by using small test markets and rapidly improving on each prototype innovation
  • Allowing rapid  prototyping of ideas on a small scale to test the potential without excess expenditure.
  • Allow only positive contributions to ideas generated during the idea generation (ideation) stage and having a separate selection and interrogation of ideas as a separate process held at a later date.
  • Only use group consensus approval (democratic vote) on ideas after there's been a thorough explanation of the user/ customer needs/ desires information and an outline of ideas potential and relevant challenges.
  • Having a one page submission procedure to initiate new projects/ ideas where a budget is needed to initiate the project and allow a time frame to develop a conceptual prototype of the idea for communication purposes.
  • Having a time-sheet code for innovation (for organisations that insist on using time sheets).
  • Provide innovation skills training.
  • Ensure cross team/ section collaboration.
  • Encourage Leaders/ Managers do have monthly 'most improved innovator' awards (to encourage continual innovation across the board)
  • Create everyday innovative rituals that form the innovation culture of the organisation. For example allowing some blue sky thinking at a weekly meeting or having a weekly idea exchange between different departments etc.
  • Encourage team members to look for at least 2 things they like about an idea and its potential before moving to faults.
  • Encourage and allow access to clients/ customers further improve the understanding of user and customer needs, expectations etc.
  • Structure conversations and research into inventions, products or service from unrelated industries top consider the learning and how to apply to your organisation
  • Allow people who were involved in the idea generation stage to be involved in the development and execution of an idea.
  • Create innovative teams across the organisation by providing innovation tools and skills training to equip all teams in commercial innovation
  • Have a transparent idea approval process.
  • Encourage teams to have fun- humour stimulates creativity and innovation not to mention it improves performance and culture.

I really hope you make the time to execute on some of the simple strategies to tackle innovation suppression in your organisation. If you do, it can only lead to helping you become a world class innovator.