Are You the Real Reason Your Company Isn’t Innovative?

Here are four signs that you might be your own worst enemy when it comes to implementing fresh, new thinking.
August 17, 2012

As an entrepreneur, you probably have more new ideas than you can count. You come up with three brainstorms in the shower every morning, six more on the commute to the office, and a dozen while you’re having your first cup of coffee. After all, if you’re like most small-business owners, part of the reason you started your own business is that back when you were an employee, you had all these great ideas about how to do things better—and the boss would never listen to you.

Now that you’re the boss, you’re bubbling over with great ideas. But your business still isn’t implementing any of them. What’s the problem? Maybe it's you. Here are four signs that you might be your own worst enemy when it comes to innovation.

1. You stick around only for the fun part. Coming up with ideas is fun (for entrepreneurs, anyway.) After all, it’s as natural to us as breathing. But once you’ve come up with that great idea, do you stick around for the long, hard slog of assessing, testing and implementing it? Or do you bid your team a cheery “See you later!” as you leave them to handle the grunt work, then get impatient when they’re not moving fast enough to bring your brainchild to life? In the fantasy world, you can snap your fingers and launch an e-commerce division. In the real world, things take a little longer.

2. You keep changing your mind.
Because we entrepreneurs have so many good ideas, we tend to forget the great idea we had on Monday in favor of the truly awesome idea we had on Tuesday. Then comes the incredible brainstorm of Wednesday, which blows all of them out of the water (at least, until Thursday). Unfortunately, you forgot to tell your team you’ve moved on from Plan A (which they’ve been frantically working on) and are now on Plan Q. Oops. Eventually, your employees burn out from chasing you first in one direction, then another. They stop putting effort into your ideas (why bother?) and eventually stop listening to you altogether.

3. You believe it’s “My way or the highway.” Sure, you think you have better ideas than anyone else on your team. (Maybe you even do.) That doesn’t matter. If you don’t listen to and incorporate at least some of your employees’ insights, you’re not going to get anywhere. Getting things done in any business requires creating buy-in, and that requires a little give-and-take. (Besides, I’m willing to bet your employees really do have some useful input that could turn your already sterling ideas to pure gold.)

4. You’ve got copycat syndrome. I recently wrote about the value of using another business as a model for your own innovation. But too many small business owners fall prey to “copycat syndrome,” which is a whole different animal. No doubt you’ve met them—the entrepreneur who wants his retail store to be merchandised like Anthropologie one week and the Apple Store the next; the restaurant owner who’s focusing on Facebook as her essential marketing tool—until she decides it’s all about Twitter. Keeping on top of trends is crucial to your business, but chasing them blindly can be a fatal mistake. Ultimately, copycats just end up chasing their tails.

 Do you recognize any of these roadblocks to innovation? Are you your own worst enemy?