What’s Blocking Innovation in Your Organization?



No one is able to stand still in this fast paced business environment. As business leader you’re looking for ways to innovate. “An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to a market or society.” In this definition of Frankelius the words “original, new and important” are vital.

To be innovative you have to break with your present habits and convictions. This is difficult in organizations, where a lot of people have to change their convictions and habits before something really new will be deployed. You can invent alone, but you can only innovate teaming up with others in your organization.

Recently I asked in more than twenty Linkedin groups on innovation the question “what are the main obstacles for innovation within your organization?”. The response was massive. This is a list of the ten most important innovation obstacles mentioned.

1. We are not aware of the need for innovation. Our company is doing too well. “A lot of people in our organization are just lazy, copying the work of others”.

2. We cannot change our habits. We lack the ability to invoke change, the ability to change our mindset. “My colleagues don’t think beyond what made our company successful thus far”.

3. We are not creative. “There is a substantial lack of curiosity among people in our company”.

4. We don’t believe innovation is going to happen. We have started some initiatives, but the board always stops new innovative products just before they would enter the markets.

5. We fear failure. Our past innovations were not successful and have cost a lot of money. “Managers were fired because their launches of new products failed”.

6. Our short-term mindset rules. The company focuses on getting results next quarter. “Shareholders demand profits today”.

7. There is no support. The hardest part is to get the support for the idea of innovation. How to create sponsorship for innovation at the top? A lot of innovators see a lack of among colleagues and managers as main obstacle for innovation.

8. How to uncover customer needs? A lot of our new products failed because customers did not wanted them. “We struggle to get inside the head of potential purchasers of the product or service”.

9. We lack a process and structure. Our innovation process is unorganized. It’s ad-hoc.

10. We do not have the resources. We do not take the time for it. We do not get the financial resources for it. And we do not have the right people in our company to develop it. -Gijs van Wulfen

Do you recognize these obstacles? What’s blocking innovation in your organization? Please share this with us.

10 Strategies for Overcoming Creativity Block


As an entrepreneur, I can tell you that starting, running and building a business goes well beyond skill, dedication and knowledge. Entrepreneurs and other business leaders must have tons of creativity for remaining relevant, for cultivating client relationships and for overcoming obstacles. And when we get too close to the forest of our own enterprise, it’s often challenging to see the trees clearly. That’s when we could find ourselves stuck in a creativity slump.

But not to worry. There are some simple strategies for sparking your creative flame:

1. Check in with your mission statement. Mission statements are often written and then forgotten. Keeping yours on hand for regular review keeps your mind focused on the “why” you’re in business. When you’re clear about the why (i.e., why your customers need what you provide), then it’s easier to come up with the “what” (i.e., what you provide, generated through creativity). If you don’t have a mission, now’s a good time to write one.

2. Find inspiration from your clients. I recently heard a couple of successful entrepreneurs talk about where they find inspiration. They each said that when they are feeling stuck or frustrated and feel that they can’t come up with a single ounce more of creativity, they call their favorite clients and spend a few minutes chatting. Doing so reignites their creativity.

3. Read. Personally, I don’t read anything that doesn’t serve my ability to better serve my clients, simply because I don’t dedicate the time to pleasure reading. And often I find inspiration in my daily practice of reading interesting pieces on the web. However, sometimes that’s not enough and I have to read outside of my comfort zone to ignite my creative spark.

4. Schedule a meeting with employees to bounce ideas around. Your employees know your business from a different perspective than you do. Having regular idea-generation powwows keeps the flow of inspiration and creativity going. This also gives your staff a sense of ownership and lets them know that their voice and ideas matter and are vital to the enterprise’s success.

5. Take a day or even a few hours off and go somewhere that inspires you. Stepping away from your office for a few hours or ideally a whole day sends you back to the office with a fresh perspective. Spending that time in a place that inspires or calms you is optimal for this purpose. For me, that place is the beach.

6. Schedule a meeting with a colleague to talk shop. When I really feel stuck, I call upon my friends who are also coaches. And every time I do, I walk away with so many new ideas that I often have to jot them down in my phone so I don’t forget them all.

7. Take a vacation. It could be that your creativity is locked up because it’s been way too long since your last vacation. It might not be a good time to take time away from the office, but even an overnight stay at a resort nearby could be just enough to refresh you and your creativity.

8. Disconnect. The idea of an entrepreneur disconnecting from her work even for an hour per day or for a full weekend is enough to send her into therapy. But, one thing I’ve learned is that when I take some time to disconnect from my work, that’s when the floodgates of my creativity reopen. There is something very powerful about creating space between our work and ourselves. It almost feels like magic.

9. Solicit advice from unlikely places. Sometimes someone who is not at all connected to our organization or even to our industry is the best place to find inspiration. Personally, I do this a lot and I find that my best ideas on how to drum up new business come from the most unlikely places and people.

10. Meditate, pray or exercise. You don’t have to be a religious type or even spiritual to get the benefit of these soulful practices. (Calling all atheists!) Exercise can have a similar effect. When we try too hard to generate creativity, we can actually block it more. Being in silence for a few minutes a day in whatever capacity feels comfortable can unblock our creative juices because stillness slows down our thoughts and clears the mind. For me, running without music—to the beat of my own breath—has a similar effect on me as my mediation practice. -Entreprenuer Magazine


Eight Ways to Turn Sales Reps into Creative Thinkers

Creative ThinkingSuccess in sales depends on how well you differentiate yourself and your product. That requires creativity. Average salespeople may be a dime a dozen, but truly original, creative thinkers are harder to find. Customers want to work with a salesperson who can generate ideas to set them apart from and ahead of their competition. Use these sales management tips to boost your team’s creativity and your bottom line.
1. Encourage daily improvement. Ask your team to concentrate on improving just one selling skill each day. At the end of the day, allow salespeople to exchange ideas on what they did differently that day and what effect it had. Open the floor for suggestions on improving and expanding each idea.
2. Post a brainstorming board. Encourage your team to generate solutions to a specific problem. On a whiteboard, write a common sales theme or problem. To help solve your team’s actual selling problems, take suggestions and give them a chance to come up with the problem.
3. Hold an idea lottery. Each month, use a roll of numbered tickets to hold an idea lottery. Solicit original ideas from your team, and reward the contributor of each new idea with a ticket. At the end of the month, fill a bowl with pieces of paper with numbers corresponding to the ticket numbers. Share the contributed ideas with your team, then draw a number from the bowl. The salesperson whose ticket number matches the number drawn wins a prize. Good prizes include dinner for two at a nice restaurant, movie tickets (throw in money for popcorn and drinks) or a gift certificate.
4. Display personal creativity symbols. Each of your salespeople has a unique perspective. Encourage them to express their individuality by having them display items on their desks that represent their views of creativity in selling. A crystal ball, for example, might represent a view toward future sales, or a bottle of Heinz ketchup could symbolize a personal goal of generating 57 new selling ideas.
5. Brainstorm over burgers. Group brainstorming sessions allow your salespeople to bounce ideas off one another. Each week, have your salespeople meet for lunch in groups of four or five. Ask each person to read and share from an article, report, or book chapter on creativity and relate it to how it can help sales. When you can, invite an innovative businessperson to join you and provide an outside perspective.
6. Keep a bright ideas notebook. To make your team’s ideas pay off, you have to put them to use. Help ensure that those ideas don’t go to waste by encouraging your salespeople to record their ideas in a notebook. Each day, have your team write down three ideas for improving sales, and at the end of each month, collect the notebooks and categorize the ideas for further discussion.
7. Start a creative thinker’s hall of fame. If your team isn’t used to thinking creatively, you may need to provide an incentive to motivate a change in their thought patterns. Designate a wall in your department as a “Hall of Fame” for posting photos of salespeople whose ideas are implemented. Accompany each photo with a paragraph about the salesperson, the idea that was contributed and its impact on the company.
8. Consider how things can be done instead of how they can’t. Many of mankind’s greatest inventions were believed to be impossible until some innovator found a way to make them work. Ask your salespeople to think of three sales-related goals or tasks they think are impossible (such as getting an appointment with a tough prospect or setting a new sales record). Then have them think of three ways to accomplish each “impossible” task.
Progress doesn’t come from following the same old routines over and over – it’s a result of innovation and imagination. The sales team that wants to sell more effectively first needs to think more effectively, which means breaking out of rigid and traditional thought patterns. By taking proactive steps to manage the efforts of your sales team to think more creatively, you’re helping them take advantage of their highest potential.
– Michael Michalko