Learning & Development

5 habits that slow innovation

In today’s fast-paced business world, innovation is a value that is often desired but not necessarily made a priority. While this concept appears to be implicitly present in many companies, from small startups to tech titans such as Apple or Google, genuinely innovative ideas seem to be a rarity, or at the very least come in spurts. This is especially true for major corporations that rely on hallmark products to come through again and again. For this reason, new ideas often come off as gimmicky or ephemeral, rather than actually pushing an industry forward. For many businesses, this may simply be a matter of falling into a routine, in which case innovation falls on the back burner to the daily grind. There are many business habits that low-level employees and executives alike make that slow innovation – here are five of the most common:

1. Creative stagnation 
The Economist suggests that the U.S., and generally the world at large, is experiencing something of a technological plateau. There is the technology we know – i.e., computers, smartphones, wearables – and innovations often take place within those confinements. Many economists conjecture that these advancements simply don’t alter the way humans exist and interact as drastically as the innovations of the 20th century. Whereas refrigerators changed cooking and eating habits and cellphones made it possible to communicate on the go, today’s novel innovations seem minute by comparison.

This is where many businesses fall into a trap. Generating an idea that changes the landscape of human existence is not only a daunting task, but also doesn’t always seem feasible. For many companies, this implies the safest route is maintaining business as usual.

“Innovations often rely on restructuring.”

2. Accepting the current structure 
Businesses rely on structures on every scale in order to function. However, the Harvard Business Review states that innovations often rely on restructuring, if not shifting to an entirely new structure, and that many companies are not prepared to take this step. The problem then becomes that the current structure doesn’t support new ideas, thus slowing down innovation continuously. Without shaking things up, it can be nearly impossible for innovative ideas to thrive.

3. Relying on money 
Forbes notes when a business is thriving, it’s easy to throw money at problems in hopes that it will resolve them. This method is counterintuitive to remaining innovative in that it pushes creativity to the wayside. Throughout history, a major catalyst for innovation has been the urge to make processes more efficient and inexpensive. Though you’ll always need money to invest in new ideas, using money as a catchall solution will deter imagination in the long run.

4. Neglecting collaboration 
Innovation often relies on people with diverse perspectives working together toward a common goal. If your workplace appears to have a disparity of networking and interactions, it may be time to invest in a quality team assessment tool. Programs such as business strategy simulations allow employees to band together and learn to work more closely with their peers.

5. Making assumptions 
One of the dangers of routine is that people get comfortable making assumptions. As behaviors become habitual within an organization, people begin to expect them. The Harvard Business Review notes that in such situations, businesses sometimes end up treating assumptions as facts, which then leads to a lack of testing and experimentation. Innovation requires trial and error, so taking information for granted can be a major pitfall. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but adapt as needed and learn from mistakes.

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