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Article -> 3 Innovation Problems – and 5 Solutions

Date Added: October 2007

Innovation is more of a symphony than a solo performance. Sure, a few talented individuals may outshine others. At showtime, though, everyone should work in harmony.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal addressed three common obstacles to innovation.
Innovation Problems
  1. Communication. Departments lack shared goals; physical locations limit brainstorming; and bureaucracy prevents open communication.
  2. Gatekeepers. Decision-making is confined to “experts,” and designated innovators are “blind” and/or unqualified to judge innovations in other areas.
  3. Seclusion. In-house innovators keep to themselves, and outsourcers work only with key people.
Obstacles, as great leaders know, present opportunities for continual improvement.
Innovation Solutions
  1. Connect. Hold everyone – in every area – responsible. Make innovation a corporate goal. A little ingenuity goes a long way: one organization was so committed to connecting its people that it created electronic name badges which flashed when encountering a person with a complimentary skill set.
  2. Experiment. Design a process to push good ideas through quickly. Allocate resources to innovation. Partnering with others can help organizations make decisions faster (turn to suppliers, industry partners or other third parties).
  3. Lead. Hold innovation sessions. Resist pushing top performers into innovation roles. Allow them to perform, and tap into everyone’s knowledge.
  4. Collaborate. Make it easy. Take down the walls between groups. Juggle the workload by working with multiple departments.
  5. Energize. Map out positive paths to innovation. Network with people who inspire, not bring people down. Pair new employees with mentors who have similar levels of enthusiasm.
When the process of innovation itself needs tuning, it’s time to take action. See Chapter 4 of Pieces for Profit (David Yeghiaian, Winners Success Network Publishing, 2007) for details on innovation types, paths and sessions. Make innovation a corporate goal – and practice until you get it right.   
Cross, Rob; Hargadon, Andrew; Parise, Salvatore; and Thomas, Robert J. “Together We Innovate.”     
The Wall Street Journal. Sept. 15-16, 2007.
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