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Seven Killers of Innovation

| On 06, Jun 2008

Praveen Gupta

Corporate leadership understands innovation is important for success, employees understand how to innovate, and innovation occurs in every business. However, the extent and rate of innovation have been insufficient. I believe that following seven killers innovation suppress our innovation instincts:

1. Harmful Vocabulary – Words such as ‘used to, ‘hate it, ‘shut up,’ and ‘why’ have been used since childhood to discourage innovative thinking. The ‘used to’ implies resistance to change, ‘hate it’ is to demoralize a person, ‘shut up’ is a personal attack on the innovator, and ‘why’ is to discourage from trying something new..

2. Standardizes Tests – SAT and ACT like standard tests promote rote test taking skills, and do not test for or encourage true learning. Individuals conforming to the norms succeed and have no reason to be innovative.

3. College Education and Grading System – Many college courses are taught in a crowd with a little interaction, require standard assignments, and promote regurgitation of the outdated material. Then these students are graded according to their test taking skills. Grading may make teaching easy, but limits learning. Teaching without grading generates in learning, a prerequisite for innovation..

4. Group Thinking – Studies have shown that conventional group thinking methods are not suitable for innovation. Experience shows in a typical brainstorming session, only about 20-30% of attendees participate actively, while others remain passive. Instead of group thinking and fragmented execution, innovation requires grouped-individual innovative thinking, and networked execution.

5. Subject Expertise – Mastery of a subject poses a dilemma. On the one hand domain expertise is a necessary requirement for innovation, on the other hand expertise has an adversarial impact due to associated baggage – I know!

6. Focused – Similar to expertise, too much focus on one thing can limit free or diverse thinking and experience, inhibiting innovative thinking.

7. Too Busy – Most companies hire the best and brightest, and give them a little time to think. The highly qualified employees are kept busy fighting fires generated by rushed management decisions such as launch of new products, or shipment of products in an unrealistic time.

The above list can be expanded by you. If you have experienced an innovation killer, share it here.