Is your company nimble, adaptable and innovative? Does it quickly capitalize on new trends and technologies, often with leading-edge products? Or is it slow to change, and often resistant to new ideas? Despite the lip service many companies pay to the concept of innovation, many continue to throw up organizational roadblocks that discourage creativity. If any or all of these five challenges feel familiar, it might be time for a creativity overhaul.

  1. “I don’t have time to be innovative.” People feel they barely have enough time to do their ‘regular’ jobs, never mind taking time to be innovative. They perceive innovation as something apart from their work, an ‘extra’ that’s been dumped on their plates and that complicates their jobs. With growing global competition creating ever more ‘lean and mean’ organizations, people can be left feeling discouraged about developing new ideas or making innovative ideas work.
  2. “What’s in it for me?” Incentives for innovation are limited or invisible. Organizational reward systems like performance appraisals and promotions are often based solely on measures of short-term efficiency and profitability. The process of innovation – from the glimmer of an opportunity to an actual result – typically takes time, usually is tough to measure, and rarely is directly rewarded.
  3. “No one told me…” Ineffective communication, both upward and downward, stymies innovative behavior. Employees near the bottom of the organizational pyramid, who may actually have the best hands-on knowledge for developing innovative new ways to do things, lack a pipeline for communicating those ideas to decision makers in upper management. Company priorities and directions are often unclearly communicated downward, resulting in unfocused innovation efforts.
  4. “I’m going to my office and closing my door.” Physical environments can encourage, or discourage innovation. Many organizations still have employees working in isolation from one another, holed away in small cubicles down long hallways. Innovation thrives when groups of people with different knowledge and innovation process styles can formally or informally share problems, information and ideas.
  5. “That’s not my department.” Like physical isolation, functional isolation discourages innovation. Many companies still divide employees into departments such as sales, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and accounting, where they pursue their own goals in separate areas. Managers focus on functional goals, rather than overall organizational goals. Silos develop as employees work solely with other specialists and begin to view other functions as less important, or even as competitors. Important organizational problems fall between the cracks; interdepartmental teams struggle as turf issues dominate meetings; and multi-departmental projects take forever to complete.

Has your company found ways to remove roadblocks to innovation? We’d love to hear your stories of success – or frustration. To learn how to build a more innovative company, visit Basadur Applied Creativity.