The Six Obstacles to Innovation: What's Keeping You From Innovating?

The Six Obstacles to Innovation: What's Keeping You From Innovating?

My name is Kelly Croy, Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2011 and Director of Innovation & Instruction at Port Clinton City Schools in Ohio. Proud to be a middle school English teacher for the first 27 years of my career.

With the world ‘innovation’ in my title, I spend a great deal of my time learning, collaborating and planning around how our districts and the districts who contact me for advice, can model and sustain continuous innovation.

Innovation is quite simply “finding better ways to do things.” Too often innovation is lumped in with technology.  It’s not devices that make something innovative, it’s ideas, methods, and systems. Hardware and software sometimes aid innovation, but not always.

In the end, innovation is about improvement, something you’d think everyone would rally around, but sadly that is not the case.

A lot of leaders and organizations say they want innovation, but do they? Most wait until they see others doing something innovative and then try to catch up. That’s not innovation.

Here are the six obstacles to innovation: 

1. Arrogance: People are too confident in the current way they are doing things.

2. Identity: People see themselves one dimensionally and are unwilling to grow or change, or they see themself as part of a group or time period of a particular method.

3. Lack of Curiosity and Unwillingness to Learn: People are not curious about new methods and avoid learning and applying new ways.

4. Fear of Loss of Control: People have too strong of a desire to be in control and are not willing to accept a period of time of not being the expert or in control. True innovation needs an environment where its okay for everything to not be worked out and ideas can be adjusted and adapted.

5. Lack of Empathy: People are unable to see other people’s needs for innovation and sadly focus on only their own need for continuity and order. People fail to see how a new idea or method would help others and rather focus on how this would be hard for them.

6. Competing Priorities: Most often innovative ideas get reshuffled to competing priorities due to interest, training, time, investment, or a lack of understanding. One person’s idea in a group is given more weight and value than a new, innovative idea. Many organizations will spend money in certain known and proven areas and avoid investing in new, unknown areas, only to spend more later trying to catch up with those that went first. Most organizations and individuals just don’t want to take the time to do things a different way. It takes time to change. It takes leadership.

The obstacles outlined above illustrate why the icons of innovation throughout history were all viewed as mavericks and rebels. They had to be. Many inventors, leaders, educators, and world changers broke away from the bureaucracy of how things are typically accomplished within organizations because they realized if they did not, their innovative ideas would perish.

Leaders need a strong vision.  The ability to see what could be is so important to leadership and acting on it allows innovation to take place.

Despite your title, you are a leader in your organization! What needs to change? Take note and avoid the six obstacles to innovation so your organization can advance and lead. Stand up for innovation when others remain seated. Speak out for innovation when others remain silent.

What change are you going to lead? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

1 reply

February 26, 2024

Hi Kelly! What a great list! Number 6 really hit home for me. We want to be ever changing and staying at the forefront of research in education, however, it's hard not to get distracted by the new "shiny" initiative and let innovation slip. Because let's face it, innovation is hard work! Love your reminder of a strong vision and ensuring all decisions, initiatives connect back to that vision!

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