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Five Types of People Who Kill Innovation

December 10, 2013 15inno 4 Comments

Who are the people that kill innovation in corporate organizations? Here is my take on five types. Let me know what you think and what you can you add.

Executives, who do not get innovation: The actions of executives continue to be the single-most important element when it comes to making innovation happen in organizations. Check these blog posts:

Does the Smartest Guy in the Room Kill Innovation?
Executives, Not Six Sigma, Kill Innovation
No CEO Engagement, No Innovation?

Incompetent innovation directors: These people must be able to fulfill the needs of current and future markets. They must be able to bring internal as well as external resources together in order to make this happen. At the same time, innovation directors need to know how to play the political game that is always played in organizations. This is a tough job and there is no room for incompetent people.

Informal leaders: Some people just have more influence than others even though they are not formal leaders. But by being just what they are – informal leaders – they can make or break projects that can help build a stronger innovation culture. Unfortunately, some informal leaders like the status quo, which can become a big hindrance for innovation.

Key people, who miss the bigger picture: Every innovation project has several key people attached to it. They are valuable because they contribute with very specific knowledge. However, they also become a liability if they only focus on their own contribution and fail to understand the value of contributions from other functions or from people outside the organization. We need more t-shaped people.

We can also argue that middle managers fall into this category. It is a bit strange, but they often hinder innovation by just doing their job (get things done), which often does not include a big picture view. To be fair, this one circles back to the executives, who must make an effort not to put middle managers in such a situation.

YOU: You kill innovation when you stop challenging the status quo, when you stop believing and when you stop pushing the limit.

It only takes a few people with the wrong mindset in the “right” places to kill innovation. Don’t be one of them.

Bonus: Check Scott Anthony’s article on The Four Worst Innovation Assassins

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Tim Cusack says:

    Stefn – I think your characterization of informal leaders as blockers of innovation is too limiting. Any leader that actively promotes the status quo, to the detriment of new approaches, is a problem. The biggest issue is when that leader is in a position of respect and authority, because others will often follow that example.

    • Stefan Lindegaard says:

      Hi Tim, we don't disagree on this. There are even more formal leaders who become defenders of the status quo and thus limit innovation. I just wanted to point out that not only formal leaders do this; we also need to be aware of the informal ones.

  2. Philip Uglow says:

    Thank you for the post Stefan. I have observed all of these persona's impede innovation in the workplace. I recently wrote a blog post about bottom up innovation that is related. If you want to look at it, here is the link: http://renshiphil.com/JfkCQY

  3. Concetta Sorropago says:

    I think that the role of single individuals in killing innovation is an old style analysis. My point is that only using social network analysis in corporate and public organizations we can understand better the problem. Behind any product or any process there are many interconnected people that have strong interest in remain where they are because a change could imply a risk for them to lose their power. These little but powerful networks that can interconnect top and middle managers and some stakeholders could be the "killer" of innovation.

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