The One Reason Most Innovation Efforts Fail

When we talk innovation, the conversation is often sparked by technological advancements, new business models and product releases. Similarly, in our own innovation efforts, we often target grand market disruption strategies, dynamic team structures and rapid R&D cycles.

All ambitions aside: in the end the success – and even legitimacy – of any innovation depends not on creative ideas, but on the impact of its implementation.

If aforementioned designs, however magnificent they are, fail to be implemented in the systems they’re designed for, change will not occur and the so-called innovation hasn’t been much more than an inspiring brainstorm session. Brainstorm sessions are fun for sure, but it’s change we’re here for, isn’t it?

We all know implementation is the hard part. We see it time and time again, as innovation projects – even those built upon the greatest of intent, ideas and insights – stifle here.

Why is that, we should ask?
I believe it is for the one reason that people are not feeling it.

Whatever the ingenious design, it failed to trickle down into the minds of everybody involved in making the change. They didn’t manage to translate the new plans into existing, everyday experiences that the people within the organization go through.

If we really wish to manifest a change, we have to acknowledge that change comes down to our people.

It is not about the knowledgeable consultant (although they can help). It is not about the inspiring innovation manager (although they can be a powerful catalyzer). It is not about the top management assigning budget (although that is a prerequisite).

It is about those actually performing and managing the tasks, therefore sustaining the organization, on a daily basis. If you’re a company, it’s your employees. If you’re a start-up, it’s your team.

The success of any innovation depends on these people’s willingness and ability to adapt their behavior.

And changing has never been an easy feat, so it is your responsibility to offer them the right incentives, knowledge and tools to make the switch as effortless as possible. It is your role to guide that process.

Most innovation projects fail for the simple reason that they fail to recognize this. They are misled to think the power is elsewhere, and fail to assign the right amount of attention to the very people their innovation’s success relies on. The key to lasting change within any organization resides with them, and them alone.

Deep down I think you already knew this, but it’s so easy to lose sight. Now that you’ve been reminded, think about how could you set up your innovation projects in a way that acknowledges and harnesses their power directly? Will you embark on a search for empathy, and go out of your way to facilitate their change processes? Do you dare to co-create and include them even earlier on in the process?

I’d love to hear what you come up with and how your next innovation efforts pan out.
I also invite you to share any experiences or thoughts you have on this topic, as we can all learn from one another.

Keep innovating.

With love,

Posted by Nadia Piet

New Zealand-born, Amsterdam-bred terrestrial being, practicing the art of living in a digital age, and help others do the same. Passionate about shaping the future of work, education and life and helping people and organizations navigate the many challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Because I believe “the best way to predict the future is to create it”.