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Are you a roadblock to innovation? Three signs and what you can do to change

September 7, 2016

There are many organizations that excel at innovation (I bet you could name five without pausing). Their success is usually the result of methodical, purposeful focus to drive innovation and an innovation mindset throughout the organization.

There are others companies that struggle to innovate (I’m sure you can quickly name a few of those too). The reasons vary and could include anything from a slow-moving industry (so there’s no pressure to innovate) to an executive team stuck in their ways (“this is the way we’ve always done it!").

Sometimes, the failure to embrace innovation isn’t obvious. It can be subtle: the unenthusiastic response to change, the lacklustre emotion when presented with a new idea. None of us want to be the “innovation killer” in our organization. But are we? Here are the top three signs you’re a roadblock to innovation in your organization --- and more importantly, what you can do to change.


  1. You are known as “the problem solver” in the organization.

While it’s good to be helpful, sometimes there is such a thing as being too helpful.  Some of the best ideas come from gaining a diverse perspective!

  • If you think this might be you: Try holding back your advice next time and ask your team “If there were no barriers to solving this problem, what would the solution be?” You’ll be amazed at the ideas that can spark around a team of diverse participants focused on solving a problem.


  1. You want one more round of research before moving forward on an idea. And then maybe just one more round… and another…

Data and research is important in any decision. Too much of it is a time-waster. You hold up innovation when you invest too much time and resources into finding out if an idea is a good one before ever trying it out.

  • If you think this might be you: After your first round of research on an idea, test it out. In Innovation Engineering, we call this the “fail fast, fail cheap” approach. Likely, your first attempt will fail (or at least parts of it will) --- but then you’ll know what to change before spending time, energy and money into wondering what might happen! Get to a working version faster, with less risk.


  1. You’re comfortable with where your organization is and how you’ve gotten here.

Business is good, clients are returning, cash flow is up and there are no real concerns on the horizon -- changing anything now would be crazy!

  • If you think this might be you: Congratulations on your success! This is the best time to welcome new ideas, take some risks and figure out how you’re going to stay on top. Because, if there is one thing that is guaranteed, it’s change. Elon Musk was quoted as saying "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough." Sitting at the top of the business curve is a nice, comfortable place to be, but it's also fleeting. The longer we stay the same, the faster we’ll be overtaken.


The good news is that even if you recognize yourself in the signs above, change is possible! By recognizing that you are slowing or stopping the innovation process, you can proactively work on removing those roadblocks. You'll be amazed by the changes you'll notice in your thought process and the ideas you can spark in your team.

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