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5 Reasons Why Your Innovation Program Doesn’t Work

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Innovation is the buzzword of the year for every industry at the moment. The excitement surrounding innovation is mainly due to the fact that those businesses that can implement smart solutions quickly are poised to gain a competitive advantage within their industry. 

Many leaders are turning to enable technologies to improve their strategy, especially within the engineering industry, utilizing technologies such as AI, robotics and even drones! But contrary to popular belief, innovation isn’t limited to just implementing new and disruptive products. If your company is looking to gain a competitive advantage, you also need to consider new business models, new ways of providing customer experience, improving customer service and finding new ways to engage with employees. 

According to a McKinsey & Company report, 80% of executives think that their current business models are at risk of being disrupted. In addition to this, 84% of executives claim that innovation within their business is essential for their growth. 

Taking this into consideration, it is easy to understand why almost every organization has started to invest in and execute an innovation program. However, out of these companies, only a handful could safely say that their innovation programs are working.  

For this blog, I will leave the success measures of a strong innovation program for another time and will, instead, focus on the reasons why many innovation programs fail in the first place.  

Reason One: Neglecting the Power of Change 

If a business has made mistakes in the past (for example, if they’ve lost money due to a past project failure), executives will often approach future innovation projects with caution.  
Due to the restrictive nature of the traditional business model, many companies and organizations will neglect the prospect of designating a group or individual to focus solely on innovation and are incapable of identifying a person who can lead this innovation.

On the other hand, leaders of organizations that can focus on innovation are more comfortable with uncertainty and tend to be far more courageous as they lead the company into unfamiliar territory. 
Failing to cultivate change and creative thinking within your workplace will only set your business up for failure!  

Reason Two: A Lack of Alignment 

Turf wars and company politics can also contribute to the underlining cause of a programme failure. 
If project managers choose to steer their programme towards the preferences of influential people within the company or even within the industry, instead of focusing on the ideas that address a company’s core business needs, a lack of alignment will occur.  And if executives opt to focus on their pet projects, rather than the company as a whole, there could be a further breakdown in communication and work efforts. 

Both scenarios will lead to a toxic and competitive work environment in which managers struggle to find the resources that they need to successfully implement change. 

Reason Three: Ignoring Industry Trends 

A leader’s inability to identify market trends that could help to inform the future strategies of a company will be harmful to the success of an innovation program.  

The same can be said for a company’s internal processes. If your business functions are not dynamic enough to understand industry trends and are not influential enough to drive your organization, it might be time to reassess your business processes and how you employ analytics and data.  

Reason Four: A Lack of Budget 

After talking to several business executives, it has become clear that they are approaching innovation program budgets with caution.  

Is your business guilty of not spending the average budget on research and development in your chosen sector? Similarly, is your business willing to be competitive with its spending, or are executives within your company sceptical of change and taking risks? 

What a software company needs to spend will be different from what a construction organisation will need to spend. Despite this, many businesses will compare themselves to others in order to judge what budget they should allocate to an innovation program. However, without taking a company’s own needs into consideration during the planning stage, a budget will soon fall short.  

Executives should also take a look at how they are allocating resources throughout the business – is your innovation programme budget being spent elsewhere? Applying finances to training and development, rather than directly using it for actual innovation projects, will soon leave your innovation program struggling to find the vital funds it needs to produce a successful result! 

Reason Five: An Incoherent Strategy 

An innovation program will suffer if the strategy behind the project is incoherent. Misunderstandings and missteps are often caused by a business using a scattered approach when planning and implementing ideas and goals. This method will leave both management and employees confused and unclear about the needs and goals that the innovation strategy is meant to address.  

When taking a closer look at your company’s strategy, you should also consider how an innovation program is being executed – are the organization’s innovation efforts being limited by the restricted knowledge of employees and the leadership team?

This might be the case if executives decide not to partner with an agency, start-up or university that specializes in the area that is being pursued. 

Have you experienced any other hurdles during the planning and implementation of an innovation program? What are some other reasons, from your experience, that innovation programs have not worked? Let me know on my social channels

Shivendra is a highly regarded inspirational leader, well known for his collaborative work with businesses. With over 12 years of leadership experience working for reputable organizations such as Siemens and the Downer Group, Shivendra is equipped with best-in-class practices that will transform your business and deliver high-impact outcomes. For more information, visit