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The Biggest Challenges to Innovation

Posted by: Jessie Scanlon on July 20, 2009

How do you innovate? What’s your process? What innovation methods work, and which are just hot air? What are the biggest hurdles?

As many readers of our Innovation & Design channel already know, we have started a series — How to Innovate — that aims to answer these questions. We’ve covered how Kaiser Permanente brainstorms and how Steelcase grounds innovation in research.

Several readers have already reached out to me with thoughts, advice, and leads to great companies I should consider using as case studies. With this post, I throw open the conversation. What topics would you like to see covered? And how can we cover them better?

Reader Comments

Pete Rive

July 21, 2009 10:47 PM

I would really like to see you cover what motivates people to share their best ideas and what are the barriers to collaboration?



July 22, 2009 8:52 PM

Which companies genuinely value good design and innovation, and how do I get past their HR departments and talk to their hiring managers?

jackson mutebi

July 23, 2009 3:32 AM

innovation as major global drive needs support of financial backing and implementation as process to achieve results . secondly tackling innovation in green economy because this is global phenonenom that eating the planet. there is need for collective action to sustain growth because it is the break through of economic

Dave L

July 23, 2009 9:41 PM

Jessie - innovation is also 'contextual'... for instance, innovation processes of the recent up-cycle (and the investments needed to make them happen) would be an unthinkable request in todays economic climate in most companies. You know - you've written about some of them!

A GREAT innovation dimension to explore might be 'how much' and 'how' in a down time i.e. familiarity may play a more important role then novelty. Innovation is still important, it still needs to happen, but how are these newly-emerging need sets sought out, assessed and provided for?

Sercan Mamakli

July 26, 2009 3:21 PM

I believe that execution of ideas is the most motivating factor for people who has brilliant ideas in their mind. Second factor which allows people to share their ideas is moral incentive like sharing his/her name in a group or community and giving a honor award which is presented by CEO or president. Third one is monetary award which is relatively less effective than expected.

Douglas B. Moore

July 27, 2009 9:07 PM

Your "How to Innovate" series has uncovered some very interesting stories illustrating traditional best practices in innovation. What would be more intriguing, however, would be covering cutting-edge techniques.

For example, your brainstorming article considered only the input of the people in the room; idea management software collects the wisdom of the crowd. The current best practice is to combine the two approaches for breadth and depth.

Applying aviation's "sterile cockpit" to create a healthcare breakthrough was an effective example of an Innovation Analog (TM), the easiest way to generate innovations. But the field trip you described is an inefficient technique for gathering them. Further, it bolsters the historic "happy accident" paradigm of innovation. Rather, innovation professionals can have a command of thousands of Innovation Analogs. Rather than drawing on one ideation technique, as implied by your article on ethnography, an innovation professional can draw upon hundreds if equipped with the most up-to-date tools.

Another of your articles described the "beauty contest" method of winnowing down thousands of discrete ideas to a few winners. Because it discards so much, it yields disappointing results and can be dispiriting to an organization's innovation culture.

Instead, voting-enabled idea management software should leave the initial screen to peer review, saving the judging committee's time for those that fit the pattern of the oft-rejected breakthrough idea. Top-rated ideas, however, should be exported into an Innovation Portfolio, which an innovation professional can use in an iterative loop of combining, refining, communicating and winnowing.

Thank you for your important and well-written series.

Douglas B. Moore
Moore Innovation

David Brody

July 28, 2009 7:09 PM

Love seeing Businessweek dedicating an entire section to this topic. Much needed.

We just wrote an insightful deck on this subject titled, "Innovate or Die: 10 Ways To Build Your Brand...A Casket."

As we like to say, if you're not're dying.

Read or download the entire presentation at:

Geeta Bose

July 29, 2009 6:49 AM

I would like to see more about innovations in the learning industry. Who all are the thought leaders in designing innovative solutions for their clients? While there are many futuristic ideas and thoughts being exchanged, how many of these are truly being accepted in the market where clients are willing to pay for innovation?

Miguel Rodriguez-Batista

July 30, 2009 11:20 AM

"Innovation process is about curiosity and ingenuity, about asking the apparent obvious, but it is also about futurescaping, visualising diverse scenarios, about scenering absurdity. Then when you have both, 'wants and futures', you apply developmental thinking to land concepts of experiences, products, services, business models. All with multidisciplinary thinking as ingredients".

Miguel Rodriguez-Batista
Product Designer

Roger F

December 3, 2009 7:45 AM

I keep reading about the tremendous challenge it is to change the mindset of a large organization thats set in its ways.
Bureaucracy, too many rules and regulations, and the cultural aspects (is there a safe environment for promoting ideas? is risk managed collectively), etc.

I'd like to know more about what it takes to turn these aspects around. Sure, commitment by leadership. But based on successful case stories, how much effort (how many people, how much money) etc. is typically spent in organizations that sucessfully manage to make a company more innovative?

I think often you have one or two champions that start working on it, and they might not create results immediately. Depending on how things go, they may become dissappointed, disparaged and eventually discouraged.

Knowing from the start how much of people, commitment, money and other resources is required would be helpful.

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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