Seven Ways to Stifle Innovation


By Samuel Greengard

These days, innovation is everything. But somewhere between grand ideas and bottom-line results lies the real world of mistakes, faux pas and abject failures. Here is some of the thinking that can take down the brightest and best intentioned CIO:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you're standing still these days, you're actually moving backwards. Unfortunately, you may not notice until it's too late. The best time to innovate is when things are going well. That's because you're not completely maxed out and you have the resources to think … and innovate.

A stroll down memory lane. Some people have a penchant for glorifying the "good old days." Actually, they weren't all that good. So, the next time someone says, "We got along just fine without BYOD and social media or (fill in the blank),” politely inform them that people also once managed well without automobiles and electricity. That was then, this is now.

We tried. We failed. We're done. Okay, you tried two years ago and the project didn't work out. This doesn't mean you can't re-apply the knowledge and try again. Many incredible inventions and businesses were built on initial failures. Think of Henry Ford, who went broke five times before starting Ford Motor Company.

There's a problem with that. You can bet that any new idea will spawn an army of naysayers. They will point out every flaw in the design, concept, system, law, etc. Of course, if you follow their logic nothing would ever change because there is an X factor or flaw with nearly everything. Perfection shouldn't be the standard for moving forward.

Great ideas come from the top. It takes only a few minutes visiting Websites or talking to employees to realize there are a lot of arrogant and ill-informed people running IT departments … and businesses. Customers and employees should be a major source of ideas (which is why crowdsourcing often works) as organizations look to adopt new features and make existing Websites and systems the best they can be.

Technology drives success. It's easy to forget that information technology only enables ideas, processes and workflows. Of course, vendors want to sell you a specific tool or solution—and there are many great products out there—but innovative IT is more than drawing within the printed lines of a coloring book. It's about creating your own painting.

Protectionism matters. A sure-fire sign that an IT department or a business is in serious trouble is when executives guard their products, systems or turf rather than thinking about the greater good of the organization. Today, a business must face the sobering reality that it's necessary to cannibalize products and services and completely revamp IT models. All. The. Time.


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