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  • Writer's pictureDr. Babette Sonntag

The biggest challenges in innovation management and how to overcome them - Part 1

Hurdler, hurdle race
Overcome challenges

Innovation itself is a major challenge for most companies. If we look closely, we can discover a lot of additional challenges at the operational level that innovation managers and project managers deal with on a daily basis.

Here you can find my thoughts on six of the biggest innovation challenges and some advice on how to overcome them.

Let's start with my #1 to #3:

#1 Lack of innovation strategy

An innovation strategy guides the innovation and determines its course. This includes having an innovation vision. Where do we want to be in 5/10/20 years? Who and what do we want to be?

If there is no innovation strategy, innovation projects are more likely to be started just because they address “interesting” problems and needs. These projects often do not have the support of upper management and their funding and resources will quickly dry up - if they work at all. Because: being “interesting” is not enough. They have to be “important” needs.

It is even worse if customer needs have not been analyzed due to the lack of a strategy.

#1 Ideas for improvement

Invest time and effort to create a common understanding of

  • What type of innovation are we pursuing (incremental, disruptive,...)?*

  • What kind of innovator do we want to be (first mover, first follower,...)?*

  • How does the innovation strategy contribute to the company's goals?

  • What are measurable goals?

  • What steps to take and which partners to find?

Keep the innovation strategy simple, communicate transparently at all times and make it accessible to everyone in the company.

*You can find impulses and questions that should be asked to solve problems in my blog post What is innovation and why is a clear definition important? (


#2 Lack of focus

What are the main areas that your company focuses on in its innovation activities? A lack of professional, content-related or technological focus means that every new idea that has something to do with the company's core business is pursued further. Somehow, besides day-to-day business. As a result, many ideas fizzle out and employees get the impression that innovation does not produce anything sustainable or valuable.

#2 Ideas for improvement

Make sure that you determine exactly which technologies and trends are being followed in the innovation area and which not. There should be not be many more than 3 focus areas with defined subtopics (e.g. main topic of logistics, subtopics of vision hardware and software for autonomous systems, data security). Focus your resources on these topics.


#3 Lack of innovation culture

If employees feel that good mechanisms for working on new ideas are not in place they will not proactively pursue innovation. Is too complicated for them. The same applies if there is neither space, time nor freedom in day-to-day business to deal with things other than the core tasks.

#3 Ideas for improvement

Be sure to ask employees for their opinions. Also include colleagues from more distant areas of the company in feedback sessions on innovation strategy and trend scouting. When working on new ideas, mistakes are allowed to be made. It must be allowed to cancel or realign an innovation project if new findings require it - this is not failure.

Make sure that idea contributors and supporters are shown appreciation at all times by:

  • they get extra time to work on their idea (I know many companies where this is 10-20% of working time)

  • great ideas are presented in the company

  • they get the attention of top management

Write down and continually publish internally what values and behavior are important to you in terms of corporate culture. And avoid a constant work overload by using a good mechanism for prioritization of tasks and focus.

Stay tuned for the next 3 of biggest challenges in innovation management. More on that in my next blog post.

Do you also know the challenges mentioned above? Do you already have ideas on how to deal with this well? What do these look like?

You can also get more background information in my other blog posts, especially:

Please note: This text is translated into English by using Google Translate - I apologize for any mistakes in this text I may have overlooked.



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