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Why So Many Organisations Struggle to Innovate by Lucy Gower

In a fast changing world, innovation is a business strategy for survival, yet many organisations struggle to innovate. Here are, in my experience the ten biggest reasons why your great idea stays on the cutting room floor and your organisation does not deliver its maximum potential in driving positive change.


Fear: The single biggest reason why most organisations and individuals do not achieve their full potential is fear of failure. The continuous desire for new and better products and services comes with no guarantees that any new idea will work. We must accept that failing is an important part of learning, development and progress.


Lack of leadership: Innovation must be led from the top. Often, senior managers, chief executives and directors are not in agreement as to the strategic importance of innovation as a business driver and what it would look like for their organisation. Consequently, they simply continue to do what they have always done.


Short term thinking: Most charities operate on a one year return on investment. Any new innovation is expected to have immediate impact. Under the pressure to deliver return quickly we conduct inadequate research and rush processes, leading to failure, the idea being ditched and innovation being perceived as not working.


Lack of resource/capacity: Linked to thinking in the short term, many organisations are apprehensive about investing in something that does not have guaranteed return on investment and often take a scattergun approach to innovation or under-resource it. This has a knock on effect of it not delivering the impact that it should or could.


Lack of collaboration: Internal budgeting and structures don’t always facilitate collaboration between teams. Individual income targets mean people fight over budgets and are reluctant to ‘share’ supporters, even if the return for the organisation (and experience for the supporter) could be potentially higher if teams worked together.


No time: There is an understandable focus on fundraising for the here and now. However, if we don’t start to make time to take a more long-­term view and develop and test new ways to generate income, charities will struggle to survive.


Lack of focus: If an organisation is not clear on where to focus, it can easily spend time on activity that won’t make the necessary impact. It’s easy to become distracted by new products and new technology, but if it isn’t helping you achieve your mission then you should not be investing time and resource in it.


Lots of ideas, no delivery to market: Having ideas is not a problem for most organisations, but having relevant ideas and progressing them can be incredibly hard. (See all previous points as to why delivery to market is so difficult for many organisations)


No clear process: A process is critical to focus on the most impactful problems to solve, filter and drive good ideas forward, yet many organisations don’t have a clear process in place for innovation, hoping that serendipity will be adequate. (it won’t)


Lack of urgency: Despite significant changes to the funding landscape and the economic environment, charities are not responding with urgency to change. Perhaps they believe that if they do nothing they will be OK, or it seems too difficult to think strategically with so many immediate day-to-day pressures.


Yet in a fast changing world, innovation is no longer (if it ever was) a nice to have.


Learn more about how to overcome barriers to innovation and increase your creative capacity.  Come to the innovation and creativity half day workshop on 18th May in London with Lucy Gower, Director and Founder at Lucidity and author of the best selling book The Innovation Workout. For more information and reserve your place go here.


Lucy Gower is founder and director at Lucidity. She is a trainer and coach specialising in the people part of innovation. She led the first innovation team at UK children’s charity NSPCC and it was there that Lucy realized that for innovation to succeed you need the best strategic ideas, processes and technology, but the most important ingredient for successful innovation is the right people working together towards a shared goal. Since leaving the NSPCC in 2012 Lucy has worked with over 50 organisations including Amnesty International, Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Nesta, The Children’s Society and Greenpeace.


Lucy is also author of The Innovation Workout, a blogger and conference speaker, and is often seen on Twitter @lucyinnovation


You can find out more at www.lucidity.org.uk.



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