The biggest barrier to innovation is all the daily work that needs to be done

How often have you used this excuse for the lack of innovation in your organization, “we can’t innovate, we’re too busy.” A survey conducted by Robert Half International of 270 Chief Financial Officers, from a random sample of Canadian companies, found that nearly half (49 per cent) cited “being bogged down in daily tasks” and “putting out fires” as being the biggest barrier for their company to be more innovative. Five percent cited “a lack of new ideas” while 2 percent cited “ineffective leadership.”

The reality is, innovation is hard – it takes time. Getting innovations to market can take years of investing, researching, and trying to get the innovation to work. For example, it took Chris Griffiths, CEO of Garrison Guitars, six minutes to sketch out his idea for a new guitar on the back of a napkin, and six years to get working prototypes, etc. Organizations, and the people who work for them, need passion, belief in their idea, and perseverance to go the distance in the pursuit of innovation.

Innovation also requires discipline and focus. Innovative companies focus their R&D efforts on customer-or market-driven solutions, and see the importance of setting R&D targets and monitoring them to ensure that pre-determined milestones have been met. The question asked repeatedly by shareholders and/or the board, and that needs to be answered is, “What did you do with the last bunch of money we invested?”

Remember, organizations do not innovate. People do. And people need time to innovate. Provide employees with the time and space to innovate. Braden Kelly, of Innovation Excellence, suggests as an alternative to allowing people to spend up to a blanket 10% of their time on innovation projects, instead allow employees to accumulate that time and then schedule time off to pursue a specific innovation project, often doing so at the same time with 3-4 other employees so they can collaborate on the project idea and push it forward.

Looking for more ideas related to innovation, read past newsletters at

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