Barriers to Innovation Pt.1

A recent study showed that only 7 out of 100 companies are considered innovation leaders. That number may seem shockingly low, especially if you consider yourself and your team to be innovation and creativity pacesetters.

There are barriers that people and organizations create that are stifling innovation and creativity.  In most cases, people don’t realize the barriers exist. Here are the most common:

Fear – People fear change.  They fear their ideas will be shot down.  They are afraid of ridicule and failure. People are afraid of risks.  Many team members fear their leaders. Many people are afraid of more responsibility and the uncertainty that comes along with it.  Until fear is identified and removed within individuals and organizations, innovation and creativity will suffer.

Poor leadership – Many leaders stifle innovation by not encouraging innovation and creativity. Employees quickly figure this out when they hear statements like “we don’t do things that way” or “that’s never been done before.” Some leaders are more interested in protecting their precious little corner office or preventing others from gaining power than exploring new ways of doing things.  Many organizations give lip service to innovation among team members, but in reality foster a system that stifles creativity.

Inflexible policies and bureaucracy – There is nothing like a healthy supply of red tape to kill the creative urge. Let’s hear it for “standard operating procedures” (I know: sarcasm is not appealing on me is it?).  Seriously, bureaucracy is often a silent killer that demoralizes team members and disenfranchises innovative instincts.

The need for instant results – We live in a world where teams are expected to produce on the bottom line—yesterday.  Innovation and the development of new ideas is a process that takes time. Those two concepts are often at odds.  What gets discarded in that case? Of course, it’s the new ideas that need nurturing, testing, revising and polishing before the results are often evident to others.

Is your team one of the 7 percent that stand-out as innovation leaders?  This is one of those issues where it is a good idea to take a hard look in the mirror and assess where you stand.  In my next post, I’ll offer thoughts on how to break down the barriers and create a culture that encourages and nourishes innovation and creativity.