Start Your Innovation Programme by Avoiding Terrible Innovators

Once you’ve decided you need an innovation programme, one of the things you’ll be spending quite a bit of time doing is hiring the people you need to create new stuff.

Regrettably, many innovation leaders don’t always get this right. The reason is that it is tempting to hire people who seem like great innovators, but who are actually poor at converting ideas into products and services that can actually drive a business forward.

Research suggests there are some key failure-inducing individuals you can watch out for. Here are the main ones you’d be better off avoiding:

The Gadgeteer. A gadget is a deceptively dangerous thing for an innovator. On the one hand, it seems the new thing (if only it could be sold correctly to stakeholders) would be a fantastic addition to the innovation portfolio. But on the other, there is practically no way to tie whatever-it-is back to any business problem.This is the hallmark of the gadgeteer – a pursuit of new things without any conceptualisation of what business problem is being solved.

The Cowboy. Such individuals are very, very committed to their innovations, so much so that no blockage can stand in their way. They go after what is needed to make the new thing happen, and they do so with gusto. Unfortunately, they also do it without much thought as to what will happen after they’ve rammed the innovation down everyone’s throats. If the cowboys are lucky,they’ll at least get their current innovation out the door and into the hands of customers. But in doing so they will have locked themselves out of being able to do the next round of innovation. Cowboys are aware that they are burning influence to make things happen, but their focus is so much on the now that they don’t permit themselves to consider how they will deliver the next innovation, or the one after that.

The Defeatist. If you got to choose the kind of bad innovator you hired by mistake, you’d want the defeatist. The only danger that comes from having a defeatist innovator is that you have to carry the headcount without getting any return. The reason? The defeatist will look at any new thing and be so overwhelmed by navigating the organisation to get success they are unable to do anything at all. These are the individuals whose first response to any innovation is ‘that’s too innovative for us’. The problem of course, is that the defeatist doesn’t have the right amount of influence to get what-ever-it-is accepted, and for some reason is unable to admit it.

The Consultant. The opposite of Gadgeteers, Consultant-Innovators spend all their time focussing on the business problem. They concentrate so hard on defining it they never get to a solution. Consultant-Innovators spend all their time generating reports and requirements documents, and very little on defining innovative responses.

The Talker. Although he or she will be a great presenter, able to fire up an audience with excitement, as well as a superior networker who can get a meeting with anyone, you’ll not get much innovation out of this type of person. The reason is they say a lot and do very little. Execution is not the hallmark of the Talker.

The Lone Ranger. This innovator doesn’t work in teams. He or she will prefer to have every detail of a new innovation under their individual control. Their thought is that only they can be trusted to make the innovation work, and they’ll engage in significant individual heroics to make things happen. Usually, though, they won’t deliver very much because innovation most often requires team work.

The moment you notice signs of these terrible innovators in your organisation, you should take steps. If they can’t be removed altogether, sideline them somehow, because they will reduce the effectiveness of your innovation programme significantly. Even better, don’t have them join you in the first place.

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