Top 5 biggest corporate innovation challenges facing managers

Changing the way your company does business is never an easy task. This week, we break down the top five biggest corporate innovation challenges facing managers today.

Natalia Kassim
by Natalia Kassim
corporate innovation challenges

Innovation managers undertake a serious responsibility. We already know that businesses that fail to innovate will eventually become redundant. Not only do you have to make sure that doesn’t happen, but you have to convince everybody else on your team to take the issue seriously. Along the way, you’re going to face a lot of problems that will stop you being as effective as you could be.

Problems, however, are always easier to avoid when you can see them coming. That’s why we’ve been thinking carefully about the biggest corporate innovation challenges facing innovation managers. Read on to make sure you don’t fall into these classic pitfalls.

Lack of innovation process

Take one look at our blog and you’ll see that there’s a lot more to innovation than most people realise. Many of your colleagues, even some of those more senior than yourself, might be under the impression that all you need for successful innovation is a couple of bright ideas and a can-do attitude.

In reality, you need a robust creative process in place to elicit the best ideas from your team, as well as an effective innovation management approach to help you act on them. These systems take time and resources to build. Make sure that’s clear to everybody before you get started.

If you’re not sure where to begin with building a solid innovation process, take a look at our post on building your first corporate innovation programme.

Out of time, over budget

This one is a killer of projects the world over, whether they’re innovation-related or not. Running out of money or time before a project is completed is not only embarrassing for stakeholders but potentially life-threatening for businesses that make bold moves towards innovation.

There are a lot of different reasons why resources might be used up faster than anticipated, but poor hiring, scope creep, substandard communication or lack of stakeholder management are all classic reasons. Fortunately, most of these can be avoided through careful planning and the efforts of an excellent project management team. Start thinking about merging your innovation architecture with a quality Project Management Office.

Hierarchy

Challenges in business always most pressing for those closest to them. Whilst a restaurant manager might worry about filling as many seats as they can, the waiter is just worried that there aren’t enough plates to go around. These different priorities are equally crucial to the business, but its difficult for everybody to keep them in mind whilst they’re trying to do their jobs. When it comes to finding solutions, it’s usually the person with the highest rank that gets their challenges addressed first.

This isn’t always a good thing. Managers are sometimes too far removed from a business’ ground-level problems to understand them clearly. Moreover, it can be difficult to challenge the views of a manager, even when they don’t have the best perspective in the room. These sorts of issues can make choosing the right innovation projects a much more political process than it should be.

Make sure that you have the correct tools and processes in place to give a voice to everyone in your organisation. Idea Drop’s cloaking feature helps to level the playing field and let every idea stand on its own merit. It’s important that your team understands that anybody can have a game-changing idea, from your CEO to the intern.

Feedback failure

As discussed above, your perspective on certain problems, and their potential solutions will vary depending on where you sit in the business. This will affect the way you understand problems and their potential solutions. What seems like a great innovation outcome for you might not be ideal for every stakeholder affected by the problem. This issue is particularly problematic in top-down innovation systems where the decision makers are furthest from the people implementing the solutions.

That’s why robust innovation systems build feedback into the process at all levels. It’s essential to understand your problem from every perspective, and you won’t get that without asking the right people at the right time. Invest some time in building a strategy to tackle ongoing feedback and review. This could take the form of a regular forum for discussion or a digital platform that relays feedback in real time.

Uncertainty

If we had a prize to give for the biggest thorn in the side of innovation managers this would have to be it. Uncertainty can be a killer of creativity, momentum, stakeholder interest, enthusiasm, and even entire projects when the wrong people are affected. It’s the voice in our heads that says, when you don’t know which way to jump, it might be best to just stay put. Of course, we all know that’s a great way to get hit by a bus.

So, what’s the solution? Well, research, analysis and preparation are all good palliative treatments, but they don’t really address the root cause – the fact that none of us really know what the future holds. That’s why the only cure is to accept uncertainty and learn to make decisions with the limited information we have. Because there is one thing we know for certain – failure to innovate will eventually destroy your business no matter how strong it might seem today.

As we continue to blog every week, we’ll address some of these problems one-by-one with some great solutions, so you know just how to make your innovation platform as strong as it can be. Check back soon!

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