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Thriving after Covid-19: overcoming the biggest blockers to innovation

Solverboard published its first Innovation Blockers Report in December 2019. The report focused on five of the most common challenges businesses face when trying to innovate.

Thriving after Covid-19: overcoming the biggest blockers to innovation
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  • Innovate UK
  • September 11, 2020
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Three months after our first report the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt. Innovation was thrust into the spotlight, but businesses have been struggling to respond. So what is blocking innovation in 2020, and how can we overcome these blockers?

Due to the pandemic businesses in every sector in the UK have had to change the way they work. As consumer’s behaviour, wants and needs change, so must the businesses who want to grow, improve, and remain relevant.

Yet focus on innovation by senior management teams has been in steady decline for the past few years. Possibly because 94% of companies are unhappy with their innovation performance, as highlighted by Scott Anthony in an article for Harvard Business Review. Fear of failure has led to inertia.

Almost a third of CEOs have said that it’s unacceptable to invest in an innovation project that fails. It’s no surprise, then, that the initial response to Covid-19 by most companies was to focus on maintaining and protecting core business activities as innovation slipped even further down the priority list.

Then came the April announcement that Innovate UK was launching a billion-pound support package to help businesses driving innovation in the UK. Along with it came a dose of reality: if you want your business to thrive after the pandemic, you must innovate.

Getting businesses to speak out

Innovation is no longer an option, but a necessity. Businesses want to innovate, but many of them are not – and we need to understand why.

Innovation leaders are the ones who see the systemic challenges that block businesses from changing and responding to growth opportunities. Solverboard believes that getting these leaders to speak out is the key to unlocking the tremendous innovation potential here in the UK.

Competitive markets make it hard for businesses to open up about what they’re struggling with.

Our team spent two years doing in-depth interviews with innovation, change, and transformation leaders about these challenges and what they need to overcome them.

Throughout lockdown we’ve also had weekly meet ups with our community to talk about how the pandemic is affecting them, their businesses, and their clients.

These conversations, along with our annual innovation blockers survey, formed the basis of both our Innovation Blockers Reports. The blockers we highlight are challenges that we’ve found nearly all businesses seem to struggle with when trying to innovate.

Innovation Blockers 2020 – what are they?

In the report, each challenge is introduced and then our team of innovation experts give their top tips for overcoming them. These are the blockers highlighted in 2020:

#1 Fear of failure

Everytime you prototype an idea, there’s a chance that you might realise it isn’t viable. Uncertainty is part of the innovation process.

This uncertainty can lead to innovation being stifled, especially if people don’t feel comfortable taking risks and investing in ideas that may or may not yield results.

#2 Conflicting goals in the organisation

A common challenge in large organisations is conflicting goals, overlapping remits and a lack of consensus around the long-term vision that everyone is working towards.

This is particularly problematic for innovation teams, who should always be working towards long-term strategic goals, often across multiple teams.

#3 Lack of innovation skills

Most organisations recognise the importance of innovation, but relatively few invest time and money in building their innovation skills base.

This can lead to unreliable processes and a lack of engagement with new ideas and initiatives across the business.

#4 No clear definition of innovation

Innovation means different things to different people. It’s often associated with technology or confused with change management.

Some people see it as coming up with radical new ideas, others see it as finding better ways to do what they’ve always done.

This lack of clarity can lead to breakdowns in communication and a lack of alignment around where innovation teams should focus their efforts.

#5 Disagreement over who owns innovation

Innovation projects tend to span multiple teams. This is intentional: interdisciplinary teams are more likely to come up with new ideas.

The innovation team will be responsible for facilitating the process and communicating progress, but responsibility for outcomes is often shared across teams.

This can lead to breakdowns in communication between teams or projects falling by the wayside because no one is ultimately accountable for their delivery.

To get access to our team of experts’ advice on the top innovation blockers and how to overcome them, and to find out how Solverboard could help your business, download the Innovation Blockers Report 2020.

First published on Innovate UK 

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