Monthly Archives: March 2016

What Makes Innovation Succeed or Fail?

In my view, innovation efforts fail when there is not enough commitment or when there is a competence gap. Dave Richards has examined the sources of failure in far more detail. He has catalogued 36 factors that lead to failure along with seven “deadly sins” that reflect a corporate culture ill-suited for innovation success.

Richards’ book, published in 2014, is notable because he traces the root causes of innovation failure to psychological factors that play out in interpersonal relationships. Many innovation leaders focus on the abstract and theoretical side of innovation, such as definitions, typologies and models. Others focus more on the impersonal nuts and bolts of innovation, such as idea management software and brainstorming techniques.

I think Richards’ approach is valuable. He maintains that ultimately, it is relationships that cause innovation efforts to succeed or fail. This includes relationships inside the organization and relationships with outside stakeholders such as customers and competitors.

Richards warns that even entrepreneurial ventures that have grown rapidly through innovation are at risk of losing their edge and sliding into complacency. For companies with more traditional cultures, the need is to change from complacency, apathy and repetition to results orientation, passion and creativity. This analysis agrees with what I have observed in client organizations.

I’m far more concerned with making innovation happen than in analyzing it. At the same time, frameworks such as Dave Richards’ 36 factors that undermine innovation and his seven deadly sins of innovation are helpful in understanding what we should do and what we should avoid doing to make our innovative efforts succeed.

Related reading: International Society for Professional Innovation Management


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New Areas for Your Innovation Efforts

It’s sad but true that most new products fail to meet their targets. Managed innovation can reduce the failure rate. But even managed innovation cannot guarantee that product and service innovation alone will be sufficient to take your company to its highest level of success.

To get where you want to go, look at non-traditional areas for innovation. One framework we like to help you focus on non-traditional areas is called Doblin’s 10 Areas of the Business. Another is called the Business Model Canvas. Still another, known as 13 Dimensions of Innovation, was featured in a recent blog post.

Take Supply Chain, for instance. This part of a company may not seem particularly sexy, but it holds vast, untapped potential to improve your results. One Delhi-based firm achieved savings of over 1,200 cr. per annum through supply chain innovation alone!

Moreover, if you can innovate in an area such as business processes, channels or partnerships, you have a very good chance of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage over others in your industry. Some new courier companies have achieved limited success on popular routes, but they can’t duplicate the channels and partnerships that firms like DTDC and Blue Dot have developed. Innovation in those areas has given the market leaders considerable protection against would-be competitors.

To innovate in new areas, assign your innovation team to study and experience those areas, to gain deep insights, and to think about innovative solutions to improve results. We look forward to reading about your success.

Related reading: 13 Dimensions of Innovation


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