Four innovation traps to avoid

by · July 3, 20143 comments

We work with a number of very large organizations that strive to innovate in their category. Innovation is an awesome buzzword. One that gets shareholders excited. There are in fact whole departments at some companies dedicated to innovation. In addition to large organizations, I’ve also been involved with start ups of late who have laid out their sole purpose to change the way things are done in various industries…you, know disruptors. And these two entities, large companies and small startups do things so completely differently, but the ones that really come through and innovate and disrupt, they have either avoided these traps, or were nimble enough to escape the trap quickly and adjust.

Death by meeting

TrapIt should not take 72 meetings to get an innovation in front of a customer to gage the market need. And the most common complaint I hear from people these days is the number of meetings they need to attend each and every day. Meetings are important, but holy smokes have we gone overboard with meetings. When you meet for 6 hours a day, you are left you with a measly two hours to get the work done. And while I pride myself on being efficient in my work, 2 hours, heads down just isn’t enough especially after six hours of meetings. And let’s be honest, we aren’t getting 2 straight hours of heads down, are we?

Meetings are important to gain consensus on what has to happen in order to move forward, but I am guessing we are not in a lot of those meetings. So, if we want to innovate, we need to focus the time we spend in meetings to concretely accomplish things to avoid the dreaded “follow up meeting”. We need strong, streamlined agendas and goals for each meeting. And we need to be clear and communicate what those things are in advance and tell people what’s going to be expected of them. This is one of my goals for the second half of 2014. I’d recommend adding it to yours.

Death by detail

When innovating and disrupting, you cannot sweat the small stuff. You need to nail the big stuff. If I have learned anything in adopting Lean Methodology into my work, I’ve learned that you prototype something and get it in front of the customer. Get the big idea out there and let the target audience determine the ideas worth. If the idea has merit, then ask the target about the details that would help bring the big idea into mass adoption. When you take a big idea all the way there without target audience input, you’ve wasted time. And wasted time is about the worst thing to innovation.

Death by navel gazing

Navel gazing is when we stop listening to the customer or the marketplace and think we know best.

We’ve all worked somewhere that spends a significant amount of time looking internally to the point navel gazing. Like, “Oh, look how neat my belly button is?” While the belly button is indeed neat, everyone has one, so we have to stop being so self absorbed in our own products and services that we forget to advance the product or service to better serve the end customer. Navel gazing is when we stop listening to the customer or the marketplace and think we know best. WE do not know best. You know who does? The people who shell out their hard-earned money for our products and services. If we stop asking them about their needs, we cannot innovate effectively. And we will sit around wondering why we failed.

Death by inertia

Similar to death by navel gazing inertia is by definition the unwillingness to change. The easiest example and target in recent history is Blockbuster. Remember them, we all had Blockbuster cards, but they refused to change, let along innovate. And now, we all have Netflix subscriptions. Blockbuster was a victim of its own inertia. Inertia will crush innovation faster than any other on this list. Inertia is usually the symptom to the disease of arrogance.

Innovation is going to happen in your category. It is inevitable. It will be up to the real leaders in marketing and other roles to drive innovation for the company as it is the only way forward. And if you aren’t going forward in business, you are going backward. And backward is not something that shareholders value.

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About Tracey Parsons

Tracey Parsons

Since 1995, Tracey has been developing digital solutions. Currently SME Digital’s lead strategist, she continues to be dedicated to bringing cutting edge, thoughtful and measurable solutions to marketers. With more than 15 years in digital, Tracey not only brings vision, but the tools and strategies to execute against complex next generation concepts. She has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands to develop and devise cutting-edge social, mobile and digital marketing practices.

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