6 innovation mistakes almost every organisation makes

Organisations must be forward thinking if they want to get ahead of, or just keep up with the curve. In these fast-moving times, it’s innovate or stagnate – but the former doesn’t ‘just happen’.

As well as a bestselling author of The Innovation Formula and The Creativity Formula, Dr Amantha Imber is Founder and Head Inventiologist at Inventium, a science-based innovation consultancy that specialises in creating workplace cultures where innovation thrives.

This month Amantha talks to CVCheck about the six innovation mistakes almost every organisation makes.

Foundations first

‘Innovation’ can be a bit of an organisational buzzword these days – one that Dr Imber, a speaker at this year’s AHRI conference, says senior leaders, in particular, can toss around “without really knowing what it means or how to get better at it”.

Getting it right is important for:

  • Achieving growth – whether financially or in impact – through finding new, different and better ways to service and add value to your customers.
  • Keeping up with competitors.

But there are a few fundamentals that must be in place for innovation to thrive in an organisation.

“Innovation in the workplace should consist of a few things,” Dr Imber says. “There’s having a culture where innovation is supported, there’s deliberately building sound capabilities to help staff be better innovators, and there are structural components, like having an innovation process so staff know how to contribute their thinking into areas that are important to growth.”

With that in mind, here are six ways organisations get in their own way when it comes to innovation.

1.    They’re risk-averse

It’s important to promote a ‘safe to fail’ culture so your employees aren’t scared to experiment with new techniques or ideas. Some of the most innovative ideas have happened as a result of accidents, mistakes and failures.

“Ultimately, innovation is trying to predict a future that is largely unknown,” Dr Imber says. “So companies need to get comfortable with the fact that risks, even though they are calculated risks, need to be taken in pursuit of innovation.”

2.    They don’t allocate enough time or money to it

Organisations that don’t invest the necessary time or money into innovation projects will stagnate.

“Innovation won’t happen just through a CEO saying it’s a strategic priority – it needs a budget and it needs time dedicated to it,” Dr Imber says.

“What can happen when people get this wrong is innovation ends up being people’s night job, which really doesn’t serve anyone well.”

3.    They think people are either born innovators or not

Some people might believe creativity is innate, but by empowering your employees to experiment and think outside the box, you can help release the untapped innovative potential of those who know your business best.

“We know the ability to be a very successful innovator is something that can be taught,” Dr Imber says. “So organisations need to actively invest in innovation capability building or training programs to really help staff be the best innovators they can be.”

4.    They don’t update KPIs

At the same time, you can’t expect staff to focus on innovation and develop their skills if their efforts aren’t included or measured as part of their performance goals and assessments.

“If you ask someone to innovate in their role but their KPIs are all about things that don’t bear any relevance to innovation projects, then you’re probably not going to see a change in innovation behaviour,” Dr Imber says.

5.    They think it ‘just happens’

Innovation doesn’t just magically come about through wishful thinking, open-plan offices or flexible working arrangements. Make sure you have an innovation process in place that’s tailored to your organisation’s goals and priorities to keep people on track and get ideas off the ground.

“There are certain stages that are very important for process, such as: making sure the focus areas for innovation link back to the company’s overall strategy; staff understanding the biggest customer problems the company wants them to think about; and having a structured experimentation process – so knowing how to test ideas quickly and efficiently.”

6.    They rely too much on business cases

Business cases are expensive, take months to prepare and might not actually be that useful in an innovation context.

“The problem with business cases is that they’re great when there’s not that much uncertainty and you can plug in data and come up with a fairly predictable solution, but innovation involves uncertainty and ambiguity,” Dr Imber says.

“Companies need to train their staff in how to test ideas with customers really quickly, leanly and cheaply over a period of days, and maybe spend a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars doing that, as opposed to spending months and a lot more money writing a business case.”

About Dr Amantha Imber

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy and is a speaker at this year’s AHRI National Convention & Exhibition. She holds a PhD in Organisational Psychology and has helped global companies such as Google, Coca-Cola, Disney, LEGO, Red Bull, American Express, McDonald’s and Virgin Australia innovate more successfully.

Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.



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