5 reasons why Innovation fails according to Mike Hatrick

Ramesha Perera
Fri 19 Jul

Much of the literature and thought-leadership around innovation paints a pretty picture about what it actually takes to create lasting change. It sounds glossy and nice, and always seems to end in success, but the real world experience is not always so positive.

Having worked in innovation for over a decade at Volvo Group, Mike Hatrick has seen his fair share of attempts at corporate innovation going bust after a promising start. Here are his reasons why corporate innovation programs fail and ways to overcome them. 


1. An Unclear Starting Point

When an organization decides they need more innovation, their first course of action is usually to start an innovation program without having a detailed program outline. 

Some key questions to ponder upon before launching your next innovation program:

  • Where is it we want to get to?
  • What does it look like when we’re finished?
  • What are the results that we really want?
  • Do we have the right team on it?
  • Does our team have the right skills and pedigree to deliver?


2. Organisational Resistance

When you work on any transformation initiative, such as an innovation program, there is a tendency to think that everyone else is as excited as you are but in reality you'll find that many will think it's a waste of time. 

Which is one reason big corporations are often very slow to react to market changes — it's difficult to persuade people to change and very risky to imagine switching your business to something very different. 

Some questions to think about:

  • What kind of organisational resistance exists in our organisation?
  • How can you confront that resistance or work around it?


3. Define your Agenda

Many thought leaders often believe that innovation is all about execution. But that's only one part of the equation. Take a company like Volvo. They’re fantastic at executing and have been doing it forever, so why should an innovation program spend any time thinking about the execution side of bringing the product to market? They should instead be thinking about creating fantastic things that could be delivered to the right parts of the organisation who are great at executing.  Define your innovations agenda and how it gels with the organisation. 

Some questions to think about:

  • What is the boundary between the front and back end of innovation in our organization?
  • For what we plan to create, does the back end capability (product development, manufacturing, and distribution) already exist?
  • What exactly is going to be delivered by the front end to the back end?


4. Culture is King

We've all heard the saying - “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and creating an innovation culture is crucial in any organisation. However, if your window is only two to three years, expecting a large organisation to change its internal culture completely in such a short time span is a unrealistic. In orderto be successful, an organisation and it's people need to be resilient, and have a CEO that is completely on board for the long-term. Creating an innovation task force could be the team to help the organisation transition.

Questions to ponder:

  • Who should join the innovation task force?
  • How can this task force work in harmony with the existing company culture?
  • How can we evolve the company culture to be more conducive to innovation, starting with this task force?


5. Role of the Innovation Manager

As a relatively new job title, the role of an innovation manager is not well-defined, and it often changes.

Innovation managers are often tasked to deliver an innovation process right from the beginning to the end, when what’s required can change quite dramatically in the different stages. 

In the early stages, they’re researching, strategising, evangelising, and pioneering the initiative. As the process transitions into the middle stages, an innovation manager becomes the change agent, designing the organisation. As each stage requires very different skills and modes of behavior, it is not necessarily the same person that drives it from the start to the finish line.

The choice of who should be the innovation manager is really important. Maybe during the process this person changes as well in order to be successful.

Questions to ponder:

  • What should the role of the innovation manager be?
  • Where will they come from?
  • How does it feel to be one?


For the full article with Mike and cool imagery check out Engage Innovation