Leading innovation is not easy. Not for innovation managers and directors, but certainly not for project managers. After all, innovation is about thinking up and doing things that have not been done before. There is uncertainty: because, what do you do if the project is not successful? If the business case is negative in the short term? What is the effect on the team? And you? In this article, I’ll give you three reasons why leading innovation is so challenging. And you will receive Innovation consulting tips on how to start small.
Limited knowledge about creativity and innovation
First, innovation appears to be a complex process. But that is not so bad. Everything is complex if you have no knowledge of it yet. That is why it is important that you learn the basics of innovations. This way you can create an environment in which the innovative ideas from your organization can flourish.
Lack of knowledge about innovation is reflected in intolerance to iterative, messy and investigative processes. Innovation is not linear, not predictable. If you do not understand that, you will soon have the tendency to forcefully exercise control over it.
The urgency of innovation is not always widely supported
There is always an element of uncertainty in innovation and who doesn’t hate that? Insecure feels unsafe, unpredictable and therefore uncontrollable. You may feel the temptation to ignore it. This is expressed in not innovating, even if you know that it is important for the future. Or by increasing control and managing very tightly on time and money. Both are ineffective for successful innovation.
Long-term goals such as investing in sustainability, innovation and inclusion hardly get a chance due to the pressure of the financial markets. Directors are not very optimistic that this will change radically in the coming years.
Urgency or side issue?
Management is often not unanimous for or against innovating something. One board member prefers not to take any risks and wants to focus on the daily operation and annual target. For them, innovation feels like a luxury, an afterthought. The other feels urgency and wants to take action.
Successful innovation is impossible without vision and leadership.
You need a vision of the future to invest in. But vision alone is not enough, you have to be prepared to really stand for this within the management. A knowledgeable innovation consultant says:
- It is important for long-term continuity.
- Time to make room for new products, services and business models.
- We should confiscate the operation, so free people up.
- We should make a budget available for business experiments.
The unpredictable value of innovation
A third reason why managing it is difficult is its unpredictability. You often do not know when and how much value you create with an innovative idea. The short-term benefits of innovation are often also not financial: you build up knowledge, the involvement of your employees’ increases and it is good for the image of your brand. Sometimes you achieve quick results, but the real increase in sales of product innovation is more likely to be seen after 3 years than within 3 months.
If the expected increase in turnover from the innovation process takes so long, will you still reap the benefits? Innovation expert often want to be the hero themselves. That makes it difficult, especially in organizations with external financing. Investors do not always have an interest in value creation in the longer term.