How to overcome organizational obstacles to innovation

Top performing teams don’t see innovation as a luxury, but as an imperative to stay relevant and successful in the hyper-competitive business world. They know that innovation takes more than a set of good ideas. It requires intent, infrastructure, institutional knowledge, and ingenuity to bring those ideas to life.

In this second installment of our four-part series on challenges to innovation, we’re focusing on the organizational hurdles that can hinder progress within a company. Drawing insights from our global innovation survey, we explore the perspectives of both enterprise leaders and information workers to uncover the core organizational roadblocks to building the next great thing. 

By understanding these challenges and exploring solutions, we can help you and your organization work toward fostering a thriving environment for innovation. Let’s dive in!

Challenge one: Lack of cross-functional collaboration

Over one-third (34%) of leaders and 30% of information workers say cross-functional collaboration is the top challenge to innovation.

Enterprises require dozens if not hundreds of teams to carry out day-to-day business operations. To do that successfully, there needs to be clear communication among all teams, especially when responsibilities and projects overlap. Without a proper structure in place for collaborating, things will be very messy.

Differing team cultures and management styles, misaligned goals, logistical issues, distributed teams, and communication gaps often pose significant barriers, hindering the flow of ideas and actions necessary for innovation. To stay ahead of these roadblocks, be sure that your teams engage in proactive conversations, check in regularly, and think ahead about challenges before they arise. 

When everyone is on the same page, only then can they enjoy the power and competitive advantage that comes from having, encouraging, and celebrating diverse opinions and experiences.

Challenge two: Slow processes

A common concern among enterprises in our survey: the struggle to maintain pace in innovation. Especially for larger organizations where there are many stakeholders and decision makers, operational bottlenecks include lengthy approval processes, too many opinions, unclear timelines, and lack of alignment.

But as we all know, teams always include people who have their own personalities, work processes, goals, and motivations, so there isn’t a perfect, one-size-fits-all formula for overcoming issues with speed. The challenge, therefore, lies not just in generating innovative ideas but in creating an ecosystem where these ideas can move swiftly from conception to implementation. So, enterprises should look inward, understand where operational failures and slowdowns occur, and implement corrections based on every specific disruption or delay in that line. This calls for clear, agile decision-making frameworks and a unified vision across all levels of an organization.

Challenge three: Finding the right talent

This takes us to another critical challenge brought to light in the Miro survey: aligning talent and skills with the evolving needs of innovation. Organizations need talented people to be innovative or risk being disrupted by the competition. 

This is obviously easier said than done. We’re living in a tough job market due to layoffs, slower hiring, and company-specific factors, such as how an organization goes about determining and filling openings. Also, many companies are struggling to make do with the headcount or resources they grew accustomed to in recent years.

Finding the right people for a team is a match-making game that looks different for companies and the candidates they attract. The first question should always be about qualification. Then the next set of questions should be about culture fit, temperament, and alignment with an organization’s mission and values. It’s important to understand how people think, how they deal with a range of situations, and how they measure up against institutional values.

Also, talent presents in a number of ways. It’s not enough to only know how to do a job. The best candidates work well under pressure, adapt well, accept all forms of feedback well, manage conflict professionally, think proactively about how to meet and exceed expectations, and can comfortably interact with people from various backgrounds. Top candidates also could do exceptionally well in some of those areas but can also be trainable and open to learning the rest. Leaders should not be quick to write off someone because they don’t immediately seem perfect on paper. Conversations provide perspective and change minds. 

With that in mind, organizations should challenge themselves to cast wide nets when looking to fill a role, consider looking internally first, think about leveraging technology to upskill current employees, and be open to bringing in people who don’t have all of the qualifications and provide an environment in which they can succeed.

Key takeaways

Just as a well-tuned engine propels a car forward, innovation powers businesses. And yet, organizational roadblocks, including the absence of cross-functional collaboration, sluggish decision-making, and scarcity of talent and skills, potentially grind that engine to a halt. It’s vital that organizations not only acknowledge these impediments but also relentlessly strive to eliminate them, thereby paving the way for a thriving culture of innovation.

Promoting a collaborative atmosphere, enhancing speed and agility, and prioritizing talent acquisition and retention are not mere choices, but necessities. Organizations should aim to break down silos and encourage diverse teams to merge their unique skills and insights. They must also commit to agility, making quick decisions while cutting through the bureaucratic red tape that often impedes innovation. And finally, investing in the right people with the right skills should be at the forefront of an organization’s strategy, ensuring they have the necessary human capital to fuel their innovation engine.

When businesses successfully navigate these challenges, they position themselves not just as participants in the innovation race but as the pace-setters. After all, innovation isn’t a passive process, it’s an active pursuit: a relentless journey toward new ideas and better solutions.

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