One of the main reasons that even the best and brightest innovative ideas dim and ultimately go dark is due to organizational failure to actually implement the innovation plans. Unfortunately, innovation without implementation is mere ideation: stunted ideas that never come to a marketable, profitable fruition and amount to nothing more than “head in the clouds” daydreams.
Confronting the implementation gap: Why do so many great ideas fail to get implemented?
One of the biggest myths about innovation is that a great idea will win out at the end of the day. False. Same goes for the notion that “if you build it, they will come.” Also, false. Why is it that a great idea alone is not enough? Why is there such a large disconnect when it comes to implementing a great idea into profitable new product that can position your company for long-term success? Organizations often cower from innovation implementation due to a deep-seeded culture of fear and resultant innovation assassination. Here are some reasons why so many organizations experience these roadblocks to innovation implementation:
- The power of the status quo: “That’s not in our budget!”; “Our clients/shareholders/board of directors will never go for it!”; “But we already tried that once…and failed!” Do these workplace soundbites sound familiar to you? If so, you are not alone—such chronic naysayers and the power of the status quo (rather than progressing forward with innovation implementation) are deeply entrenched and inveterate parts of many organizations’ organized work cultures. There are innovation-obliterating assassins lurking in all parts of your organization. Frighteningly, the biggest innovation assassins are often wearing a disguise. So many high level executives will earnestly (and with a straight face) wax poetically about how important it is to change the organizational culture, catalyze innovative thinking throughout all ranks of the company, and dismantle the power and comfort of the status quo. Yet when you delve deeper into conversation with such executives about taking action and implementing innovation, they cling to their security blanket—the status quo—as if they were clinging on to the Titanic’s last life raft in the icy waters of the Northern Atlantic.
- Fear: So why the discrepancy between what such executives say and what they actually do? They typically aren’t “lying” for the sake of deceit or other callous intentions; but instead, their self-contradictory statements and behaviors are usually due to fear. Sometimes, it is pure fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of criticism. Fear of change. Fear of being terminated. So many people in a wide range of industries feel as if they are on the bubble. That is, one false move and—poof! —they’re on the street.
- Insecurity due to the residual effects of the Great Recession of the late 2000s: Sometimes an organization’s culture of fear can be traced to the residual effects of the Great Recession of the late 2000s. When a business team is insecure and in self-preservation mode where they are playing defense instead of offense (or even worse, playing “not to lose” rather than “win the game”), it is easy for innovation assassination to permeate the fear-based cracks in the organization, effectively gagging all new ideas, impetuses for change, and innovation
- Organizational/office politics: Other times, an organization’s root cause of innovation assassination is not due to a culture of fear but rather purely political reasons. Exciting new thinking can meet an untimely death when it is squashed by people who aren’t team players and suffer from the “not invented here” syndrome, which is the closed-minded belief that “no one should get credit for cool stuff around me unless it is me and my group.”
- Deeply ingrained cultural cues: Another reason organizations are riddled with innovation assassination is due to the direct results of the organization’s decades of DNA. In such cases, ingrained cultural cues (you could even go so far as to call it “dogma”), lead to resistance to “the other” and any new ideas and innovation in business. Resistance to “the other” will be fierce and often have very little to do with the actual worth of validity of the innovation being proposed.
Given the above-discussed reasons, the chances of successful innovation implementation must appear pretty bleak. Even the terms themselves—“innovation assassination” and “culture of fear”—are incredibly ominous-sounding. But fear not, there are ways to fight back against the culture of fear and innovation assassination.
To learn practical ways to help fight back against the culture of fear and innovation assassination and catalyze successful innovation implementation, check out article author Robert Brands’ follow-up article entitled “On Guard! To Successfully Implement Innovation in Business, You Must Fight Organizational Culture of Fear and Innovation Assassination.”
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