complexity causes

It’s time to innovate what prevents you innovating


Yes, another blog post on innovation. Yawn.

We all know ‘innovation is the lifeblood’ of any organisation. We also know there are many factors that determine whether your organisation creates great new products or services. But no matter how good your approach to innovation is, if your people are bogged down in bureaucracy, many of the best ideas will never see the light of day.

It’s time to innovate the internal machine.

Innovation has – for a long time – been a major priority for organisations. It continues to be. 79% of respondents in a recent BCG study ranked innovation as either the top-most priority or a top-three priority1.  But we also know that we’re somehow not as good at it as we should be. McKinsey research suggests that 94% of managers are not satisfied with their company’s innovation performance2.

There are many opinions on what creates the best conditions for innovation. Few will argue that supportive leadership, funding for early stage ideas, experimentation and a structured (though not too structured) process all play an important part.

The irony is that even when organisations have all of this in place, people still don’t have the time or head space for the next big idea. The internal bureaucracy that governs much of their time is stopping them. 

It’s time to turn innovation onto the internal machine.  

While (good) customer-facing innovation generates revenues, internal innovation creates the capacity for the next big initiative. Clearing away some of the debilitating complexity not only creates capacity, it also creates a swell of good will and energy that can be channelled into further innovation. And there is a good reason why this virtuous cycle doesn’t have to be a pipe dream.

The skills for internal innovation are much the same as for customer-facing innovation. It’s still about understanding the context, culture and needs of your customers. Only in the case of internal innovation, the customers are you and your colleagues. It’s still about generating and testing ideas for improving the status quo. And finally it’s still about launching and then learning about your ideas in the real world (this time, your organisation).

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In fact, there are an increasing number of organisations applying Design Thinking, hackathons or ‘intrapreneurship’ principles to innovating the way they work every day. These approaches will be very well received, provided it’s not just a top-down directive. It’s not hard to see why. Who doesn’t want to be a part of creating more time for the stuff that is both fun and makes them feel they’ve made a difference?

Takeaway: If you want more successful innovation, turn your existing innovation skills inwards and break the bureaucracy holding your people back. Then you’ll have the time to drive growth through better products and services.




  1. Boston Consulting Group, Annual Global Innovation Survey 2015
  2. McKinsey, Global Innovation Survey