August 3, 2016, by Elizabeth Smith
Why innovation remains misunderstood
Written by Paul Kirkham, Researcher in the field of Entrepreneurial Creativity at the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Nottingham University Business School
Let’s examine the barriers to innovation. Research carried out as part of the executive education programme at Nottingham University Business School has revealed an uncanny consensus in this regard, with non-engagement, short-termism, inflexibility, risk-aversion, micromanagement, lack of time, lack of freedom, lack of budget and initiative overload among the factors routinely cited.
To many employees the last of these might well be the most depressingly familiar of all. It’s without doubt among the most alarming and self-defeating. There are numerous stories of initiatives being superseded before implementation has been completed.
This sort of thrashing around may seem inescapable in a world of ceaseless change, but it betrays a basic misunderstanding of the nature of innovation. Novelty for its own sake is no better than paying lip-service to revolution while actually perpetuating muddled inertia.
Organisations that fail to realise this tend towards caution. They reward certainty and punish failure. Some might have lost sight of their raison d’etre, especially if they have multiple divisions whose metrics are far removed from the real bottom line. Some might even be nearing the threshold beyond which renewal is no longer feasible.
One strategy is to recognise and prepare for the crisis points at which innovation becomes inevitable. Another is to identify, seize on and maximise the myriad opportunities that too often go unremarked and unexploited. We ignore at our peril the possibilities offered by external disruption, new technologies and emerging trends or markets.
Above all, we should keep asking two fundamental questions that frame innovation’s potential as succinctly as anyone could wish:
• What can we do better?
• What can we do differently?
Organisations that are reluctant to confront these crucial concerns find themselves in genuine crisis soon enough and they can count themselves very, very lucky if they escape from it.