3 Ways to Deal with Innovation Resistance

Having been in the innovation business all of my career and for the last 15 years as a professional innovator, I’ve seen my share of resistance to innovation. Most of the time, individuals within internal innovation groups within organizations are typically pretty innovative, they spend time pushing forward-thinking products and services forward within the organization. In some cases, however, especially in staid, older organizations without a strong innovation culture, even folks in the innovation group themselves can put up a fight when it comes to breakthrough ideas. Even in some organizations which are tied down by market forces or regulatory burden, there’s still a need to experiment.

This is why is extremely important (and one of the very first things we do) to understand the culture of the organization. What does innovation mean to this company?

Once you understand the culture – you’ll be able to figure out how to move things along. In any case, here are three solid strategies for pushing that innovative new concept to the next step, be it proof-of-concept, prototype, or even actual product.

1: Recast The Concept For a Specific Underserved Desirable Market

Once you understand your corporate culture and its desired market, revise and devise a strategy for moving the ideas forward using that lens. For example, if your company is very bottom-line focused, build your case based on the profitability of the idea. Even if there is no immediate profitability on the surface, recast the idea from that perspective. If your company is socially aware, use that. For example, one of my clients ideated a completely novel concept in one of their ideation sessions – it was completely unique, new fresh and different. So different in fact that many balked at the idea as being too “out there”. We recast the idea by finding a market for the idea which fell completely in line with the companies stated direction. They, in fact, were looking specifically at addressing this market, and this concept, with a few tweaks, was perfect for this market, and the concept then sailed through the approval process.

2: Your Competitors Are Doing It

Nothing moves people to action more than a little competition – build your case by researching where your organization’s competitors are in the space and highlight your place in the hierarchy. This may or may not work depending on your culture – your people may, in fact, be happy in 2nd, 3rd or 4th place. They are doing well enough, and would rather not rock the boat by spending money on unproven ideas. If that doesn’t work, leverage internal competition within departments. Your organization may not have the stomach to duke it out for first place in the market, but inside your organization, there is constant jockeying for position. If one leader isn’t taking your ideas seriously, take it to another. Foster a (hopefully) friendly internal rivalry on which of the senior leadership can be more innovative.

3: Just Pivot, There are Plenty of Other Ideas

If you’ve tried the above and developed rock-solid business case after business case for this great idea which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and is hitting roadblocks all over, then just do what the best startups do: pivot. Morph the idea into something else, focus on maybe just one small aspect of it, or just drop it altogether. Maybe this is the wrong time, place and company for this idea. After all, if you’ve done things right, you should have a full pipeline of great ideas to choose from. Sometimes, you just have to know when to fold them.

These are just three of the many, many ways to deal with resistance to innovative new ideas. Stay tuned for more in future posts.

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