Why Innovation Fails and How to Avoid It

A rocket crashes to the ground as an example of why innovation fails

Have you ever heard or felt any of these sentiments? 

“People were so excited and then things just went back to business as usual.”

“Leadership announced our new innovation initiatives at the company-wide meeting but then I didn’t hear another word about it.”

“There was a lot of fanfare in the beginning but then it just fizzled out kind of like every other initiative so I just keep my head down and wait for it to pass like everything else.”

In the past six months, I have heard these statements when talking with people about the culture of innovation at their company. Most likely, your team either thinks or states something similar .

The Launch and Abandon Trap

These companies suffer from what I call the Launch and Abandon Trap. It’s a major reason why innovation fails.

First, as leaders, you decide to launch an innovation initiative. Maybe it’s a new process you’ve adopted like Design Thinking, Agile, Lean, or maybe it’s something you’ve developed internally.  Or, maybe it’s making innovation a higher priority as you move through changing times. Regardless of the reason, you launch your new initiative with major fanfare. You partner with a consulting firm who helps you systematize the processes. You assemble a committee to put together an innovation kick-off session. You have the leader of the department or company make an inspiring, yet urgent, speech about the importance of innovation at the annual team meeting.

Things are off to a great start. You feel the excitement. Your people want to innovate. Everyone leaves the meeting high-fiving,  heading back to their offices to innovate.

In the first week, you notice a difference. Meetings have a different tone to them. April came to you with an innovative solution to a challenge your department has been facing. You overheard someone else saying to a colleague, “What if we thought differently about this.” You see people raising their heads up to collaborate with each other.

You think “Mission accomplished. Innovation has become a daily part of your company’s culture.”

Then a few weeks go by and you notice the shift. The shift back to business as usual. Meetings start to sound the same. You feel no excitement. The old energy, or lack thereof, comes crawling back. . People have returned to their silos and their heads point down.

No Fuel for the Jets 

So what happened? Like many others I work with, you fell into the Launch and Abandon trap. You fueled up the innovation fires, launched big, and then but didn’t keep fueling the tank when it mattered most – the crucial time after launch when you need to sustain your momentum. Now you’re left scratching your head wondering why your innovation efforts failed. 

But don’t fret. You’re not alone. I see this time and time again. It’s an easy trap to fall into. And here’s the secret, it’s easy to avoid if you think about innovation as something that continually needs to be fueled.

In our work at LaunchStreet, what I’ve seen work wildly successfully with our clients is a 4 step process that ignites, launches and sustains innovation, infusing it into the DNA of your organization, and most importantly, your people.

4 Steps To Avoiding Launch and Abandon and How to Create Sustainable Innovation

Step 1 – Unlock

Tap the power of all the people in your organization by helping them discover their natural innovation abilities and see how they impact the organization, regardless of their title or years of experience. As we’ve discovered through our Innovation Quotient Edge Assessment, when innovation becomes personal, buy-in and engagement increase drastically.

Step 2 – Ignite

This is where you launch your innovation initiative. As they say, go big or go home. Build on Step 1 by making this as much a professional development opportunity for them – how they can bring more innovation to their work –  as it is a company-wide initiative. The reality is they are interlinked and you won’t get to company-wide innovation without your people behind it. Get people excited about the future you’re building and how they are a part of making that change happen.

Step 3 – Access

This is where the rubber starts to meet the road. People have bought into your culture of innovation shift but they need help. They need easy to digest and simple to implement tools. Remember, their  innovation abilities have been dormant for years. You need to re-ignite them. What we’ve discovered with our online IQE Pro ToolKit is that when people are reminded weekly to innovate and have tools at their fingertips 24/7 they are more likely to believe, and hence, ignite innovation daily.

Step 4 – Sustain

The prior stage helps you sustain but, sometimes you need more than a great tool. What we’ve found with clients are support elements. Quarterly leadership town hall meetings offer everyone a chance to share best practices and work through challenges. Or, why not institute organization-wide innovation office hours to ensure that the innovation fuel continues to burn bright.

Avoiding the frustrations of Launch and Abandon can be a simple 4 step process that transforms innovation from “just another initiative” or a “point-in-time exercise” into the hearts and minds of your people, your culture and your bottom line. Organizations that engage in the steps mentioned above compete, and win because innovation happens every day, across their entire organizations.

That’s a powerful competitive advantage.