How to overcome 3 Biggest Obstacles to Innovation Success?

In most cases innovation does not come easy. Ideas about ways to innovate may be easily thought of, however, the right way of executing these ideas can be a more complicated matter. Along with budget issues and/or the inability to stimulate critical development, the biggest obstacles for innovative success consist of politics, cultural issues and lack of strategy or vision (Innovation Leader, 2019). Although it can be challenging to create more budget or reallocate a firm’s funds for the sake of innovation, this obstacle cannot be considered as a deeply rooted problem. On the other hand, in times of when innovation is desperately needed; it will be harder to successfully innovate when there is an inability to act on developments that are taking place in, for example, the industry. Especially when these deem critical for the future of a business (Innovation Leader, 2019). However, also this obstacle can be more easily overcome in comparison to the biggest struggles to the successful implementation of innovative practices.

As mentioned before, these are related to business politics, culture issues and a lack of strategy or vision. These obstacles will therefore be dissected one by one in this article and recommendations will be made to overcome these obstacles to innovation.

It is important to be aware of the biggest obstacles to innovation success in order to be able to overcome them.

The biggest obstacles to innovation:

  1. Business politics
  2. Culture issues
  3. Lack of strategy or vision

 

1. Business politics

For an innovation to be successful it needs to be acceptable and sustainable. The sustainability of the innovation has to be anticipated in a rightful manner and, thereby, innovation has to be considered as a political concern (Widiyahseno, 2018). The impact of politics, which can manifest in i.e. a turf-war or no-alignment, on the enablement of successful innovation practices is big and should not be overlooked. Politics are involved in the innovation process since power needs to be exercised to mobilize enough support for innovation (Widiyahseno, 2018). The appropriate power relations between the innovator and other parties are therefore a necessity to generate support and reduce potential resistance for the needed innovations. When it comes to introducing innovations, the innovator can either limit alternative actions or expand alternative choices. Innovation is in reality not merely an administrative technical phenomenon (Widiyahseno, 2018), since it frequently concerns the people in a company and/or the company’s clients. Innovation can therefore not happen without politics. For innovations to be acceptable and sustainable, the innovators within a company should build appropriate relationships with all the parties that are concerned (Widiyahseno, 2018).

 

2. Culture issues

The second obstacle that needs to be discussed has to do with cultural issues, even though it has been commonly accepted that culture can foster innovation. Organizational culture can even be seen as the most important aspect to innovation success (Büschgens et al., 2013). An innovation strategy can namely be underpinned by organizational cultural issues (Mortara et al., 2010), which can

manifest in a multitude of ways. A strong organizational culture can form an obstacle for innovation, since a culture provides a stable system within the organization of values and beliefs. If a company wants to use novel knowledge to develop a new product or service, for example, the attempted innovation may fail due to the organization’s preference for stability (Büschgens et al., 2013). It is therefore advised that if a firm wants to have a main focus on innovation it has to create a developmental organizational culture first. This is a culture in which flexibility is valued and the orientation of the company is mostly external (Büschgens et al., 2013). However, other organizational cultures are advised to be established when innovation makes up just a minor aspect in the firm’s objectives; a rational culture that is oriented on efficiency or a group culture should then be considered. In a group culture teamwork and a common morale is valued, while in a rational culture productivity and efficiency are valued most (Büschgens et al., 2013).

Even with the best innovation process, without supportive organizational culture and context not many innovations will come out.

 

3. Lack of strategy or vision

Thirdly, a lack of strategy or vision can form an obstacle for innovation in a company. It is no secret that innovation is difficult and that initiatives either frequently fail or turn out to be hard to sustain (Pisano, 2015). In a lot of cases, this is due to a lack of an innovation strategy in the company. A strategy, in general, promotes alignment between the people working in an organization, it helps to focus the company’s efforts and clarifies the objectives. A company needs an innovation strategy to make the appropriate trade-offs and choose the correct elements for their innovation system that matches the company’s competitive objectives (Pisano, 2015). A business’s possibility to innovate can therefore be related back to an innovation system, which is for the most part unique to each company. Although firms can learn from other companies’ innovation systems, a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not applicable since companies e.g. operate under different circumstances and/or in different environments. Imitating others or adopting a popular system is therefore frequently the downfall of a company’s innovation pursuits (Pisano, 2015).

Having a good innovation strategy means having capacity to innovate on a continuous basis, learning from previous attempts and constantly improving.

 

To overcome the obstacle of lack of strategy, companies should design a separate innovation strategy that matches its general business strategy (Pisano, 2015). Then to make innovation a successful pursuit, this innovation strategy should have a clear design and support the firm’s general business strategy. In addition, in order to create a sustainable innovation strategy of quality, there should be a clear understanding of the company’s objectives and how sustainable competitive advantage can be created (Pisano, 2015).

Innovation strategies are thus complex and should therefore be carefully designed. Consequently, it needs to be realized that innovation strategies need to be adjusted over time. They need to evolve so the company can stay competitively relevant (Pisano, 2015). To conclude, besides a lack of strategy or vision a firm thus has to overcome certain obstacles to ensure the success and sustainability of (future) innovation initiatives.

With the awareness of these obstacles alone, it will be easier to navigate the innovation process and create an optimal environment within the company in which innovation initiatives can be born and facilitated.

Sources

Büschgens, T., Bausch, A., & Balkin, D. B. (2013). Organizational culture and innovation: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30(4). 763-781. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12021

Innovation Leader. (2019, November). Innovation Leader: 25 recent data points & rankings for innovations in large organizations [PowerPoint slides].

Mortara, L., Slacik, I., Napp, J. J., & Minshall, T. (2010). Implementing open innovation: Cultural issues. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, 11(4). 369. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJEIM.2010.032264

Pisano, G. P. (2015). You need an innovation strategy. Harvard Business Review, 93(6). 44-54. Widiyahseno, B. (2018). Politics in innovation: Power relationships in the mobilization of support in developing an innovation policy. Jurnal Studi Pemerintah, 9(2). 161-186. doi.org/10.1819 6/jgp.2018.0160

 

The author of the text is Debora de Vries. Debora was intern at Vinco in 2021.

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