Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Innovation Programmes Fail

There is only one real reason for your Innovation programmes to fail and that is the fact that you have taken no action at all! I’m sure, however, that is not what you want to hear and you will be shouting ‘not true’ at you computer screen. One of the components of any such programme is learning, so that even if you don’t hit the targets you set for yourself you will collect some knowledge on the way and thus not ‘fail’. The only way you can fail, therefore, is by not doing anything thus not making any progress and not learning anything.

If you have read much literature on the topic of Change Management then inaction will be a recurring theme. Many Managers mistake discussion, planning and specification for action thus they believe that an initiative may be underway when it is not. When asked what is happening they will tell you that the Innovation Task Force is meeting regularly and soon they will have objectives and a plan. Great in the early stages but you should ask the question ‘Have you actually done anything?’. In many cases the answer will be no. So no surprise that your initiative will be flagged as failing when it never actually started. To Innovate you must DO SOMETHING.

Readers will I’m sure like a few pointers as to why they have not made the progress they anticipated when they have taken action, so here are some potential reasons. Not all will apply to you but use them as a checklist:

  • Employees do not know about your initiative – check communications
  • Employees do not care about your initiative – check motivation and morale as well as management sponsorship
  • Poor performance – did you identify any areas for training and development?
  • Nothing is happening – have you officially kicked things off, have you changed what YOU do? Are others sabotaging your efforts?
  • It all seems like hard work – do you have a team in place to help?
There are four broad categories of people to address when kicking off your innovation programme:
  • Enthusiasts – no problem here, welcome them with open arms
  • Disbelievers – ‘no that will never happen’, simply ‘do’ and conquer
  • The Angry – ‘over my dead body’ hard work (see below)
  • The Followers – ‘well if its going ahead I might as well tag along’, welcome these people also.
It is only the Angry (or Awkward) who pose a problem. What you need to realise is that a 70:30 rule applies here. If you run your innovation programme in an appropriate manner (you can borrow from Change Management here) then you will have 70% of your employees onside. There things aren’t so bad are they? So just DO, and you can’t actually fail!

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