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What Makes Innovation Succeed or Fail?

28 Mar

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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