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50 Common Mistakes Corporate Innovation Teams Should Avoid

50 Common Mistakes Corporate Innovation Teams Should Avoid
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In my ongoing dealings with various organisations and innovation thought leaders, all too common mistakes have emerged when it comes to corporate innovation programs - especially when it comes to exploring what McKinsey calls Horizon 2 (adjacent innovation) and Horizon 3 (disruptive innovation).

These themes became so apparent in fact that I decided to capture these in a blog post for your reference.

Consider the following a checklist if you will - how many of these mistakes do you think your organisation or innovation program might currently be making?

When it comes to corporate innovation - each organisation is different and there is no silver bullet - but still, we can stand on the shoulders of giants and learn not to make these mistakes which can, with a little TLC, be easily avoided in order to not only cut the cost of making these mistakes, but increase our chances of success in delivering new commercially successful innovations to market.

  1. Trying to tackle innovation through isolated initiatives instead holistically - Read More
  2. Applying Horizon 1 policies, systems and values to Horizon 3 innovation
  3. No funding is made available to pursue ideas post a hackathon or idea contest - Read More
  4. People are not given time off to participate in hackathons and other innovation initiatives
  5. Using traditional metrics based on dollars such as ROI, IRR and NPV are used to measure success, despite the fact that Horizon 3 and disruptive innovation requires innovation metrics based on learnings - Read More
  6. Separating innovation initiatives from the mainstream - no integration with core business units - Read More
  7. Selected ideas are not given time to incubate learnings and are withdrawn early based on ROI not being sufficient, instead of looking at innovation metrics such as learnings - Read More
  8. Not determining a theme and criteria for idea contests, subsequently receiving hundreds of disjointed ideas of varying quality  - the majority of which receive can not be evaluated effectively
  9. Hackathons focus purely on building things, not on validating make or break assumptions underlying a business mode - Read More
  10. Ideas for progression are selected by senior executives only and based on flawed criteria such as short term ROI potential - Read More
  11. Beginning with a  ‘what is’ constraint based mindset instead of ‘what if’ resulting in narrowly defined, unadventurous and easily replicated incremental improvements
  12. Acquiring startups with and integrating them into the bureaucracy and systems of the mothership, ultimately killing them - Read More
  13. Pulling human resources from projects when competing interests arise
  14. Feedback is not given to people who submit ideas to an idea contest, subsequently resulting in disgruntled employees brandishing innovation initiatives nothing more than ‘theatre’
  15. There is no mechanism in place to build upon ideas in an idea contest
  16. Not effectively defining the objectives of an innovation program and the type of innovation that is sought (i.e. incremental, adjacent or disruptive - H1, H2 or H3)
  17. Not effectively defining what the organisation’s definition of innovation is
  18. Not updating performance reviews and KPIs to align with innovation objectives
  19. Not tieing innovation strategy with corporate strategy
  20. Selection criteria used to recruit people to innovation programs is often flawed and favours Horizon 1 ‘avoid failure at all cost’ personalities, but not Horizon 3 ‘embrace ambiguity and experiment rapidly’ personalities
  21. Middle management are not trained in nor incentivised to take part in innovation programs
  22. Engaging startups to speed up innovation but not aligning internal processes to support this speed (eg. long, drawn out procurement processes when engaging startups, steering committee meetings to communicate with startups, not making key people available to support startup testing and cadence)
  23. Engaging only large incumbent consultants with a large, slow moving cost base to support innovation efforts inhibiting the ability to move quickly and take lots of small bets - critical to the exploration of Horizon 3 or disruptive innovation
  24. Running hackathons without a strong mix of people with diverse skills and experiences - limiting breadth and depth of outcomes
  25. Senior executives dictate what the answers are and what products need to be built - without input from employees, partners, customers or members of the general public
  26. Confusing the adoption of technology with being innovative
  27. Thinking that disruptive innovation is simply filling existing and visible customer needs
  28. Not having a direct reporting line from innovation teams to the C-Suite or senior management
  29. Having an innovation team which is not integrated with other business units and/or the wider organisation
  30. Teaching people methodologies such as lean startup but not addressing the underlying culture, systems and processes that inhibit the application of lean startup principles - Read More
  31. Running focus groups to support brainstorming and market research with people who are paid to participate
  32. Asking focus group participants whether they would pay for something without actually having to demonstrate this behaviour
  33. Asking focus group participants leading yes/no questions which results in false validation of hypotheses
  34. People who vote on ideas as part of an idea contest do so without any knowledge of innovation theory - often resulting in contests amounting to popularity contests and one’s abilities to market the idea internally
  35. Creating innovation roles that are purely ‘part time’, signaling that innovation is not a serious priority
  36. Staff are not trained in innovation theory, design thinking or lean startup principles, yet are expected to act and move like startups
  37. Hiring new employees based on traditional Horizon 1 competencies and skill-sets
  38. Not investing in new technologies or innovations because initial revenue projections won’t support the achievement of short term growth metrics
  39. Not having a process in place to capture knowledge from innovation programs centrally and leverage it effectively across the organisation
  40. Insufficient guidance is provided to staff around ideation of initial ideas
  41. Not getting out of the building - internal brainstorming and a lack of customer focus
  42. Thinking that a startup is just a small version of a big company
  43. Thinking that a large company is just a big version of a startup
  44. Thinking that digitising broken offline processes is innovation
  45. Investing in technology without addressing the underlying business model
  46. Ignoring technologies that aren’t good enough for existing customers
  47. Trying to sell and experiment with existing customers
  48. Not investing because the market for a new innovation or technology isn’t large enough
  49. Silos - business units not effectively sharing knowledge or talking to each for the purposes of innovation, especially marketing and different product divisions - competition across business units can also inhibit innovation
  50. Misaligned communication and incentives across an organisation

If you're interested in finding out how to circumvent the significant time and cost involved in making and learning from these mistakes and navigating the corporate minefield, then reach out below.

Workflow Podcast

The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.

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To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.

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Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is the co-founder of Collective Campus, author of Time Rich, Employee to Entrepreneur and host of the Future Squared podcast. He’s a chronic autodidact, and he’s into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and do standup comedy.

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