Almost everyone we ask says they want to be innovative; and it is a well accepted concept that the best returns come to those who are first to market with a new product, process or solution.
It is a straightforward conclusion that a competitive advantage will be yours if you can provide better quality at lower costs, achieve breakthrough improvements, or if you create a management system or culture that constantly is clicking on all cylinders.
But how often do these things actually happen?
The Innovation Dilemma
Innovation is challenging for all of our organizations: large and small. Each new “frontier” is fraught with peril and risk… with each new idea inspiring both hope and worry. In fact, in our experience and research, we find that there is an “innovation dilemma” that makes innovation truly enigmatic:
- Large organizations have more wherewithal to invest in systematic innovation, but smaller organizations seem more capable of capitalizing on innovative ideas.
- Most innovations come not from visionaries at the top but from people closest to the work. Yet paradoxically, strong leadership and vision at the top of the organization are required to create an environment that fosters innovation and risk taking. Without strong leadership, organizations become bureaucratic and risk-averse.
- Outsiders often have the most innovative ideas, but insiders’ know-how and buy-in are required to get them implemented.
So, with these challenges in mind, our next couple of posts will take a closer look at some of the barriers to innovation as well as ways to overcome them.