The Invisible Chain of Undefined Innovation Guardrails

Undefined maze, without clear guardrails to find a way through it.

The Invisible Chain of Undefined Innovation Guardrails

In our ongoing exploration of hidden systemic factors that hinder companies from reaching their innovation ambition, we delve into an often overlooked yet critical chain – the absence of clear “innovation guardrails”. 

Innovation guardrails signify the rules, guidelines, and policies which, when clearly established and communicated, create a structured and safe playground for innovators. These parameters not only foster freedom to explore and experiment but also soothe executive apprehensions around cost and risk escalations associated with innovation ventures. Key aspects they cover range from idea capturing and screening, financing methods across different development phases, guidelines on sourcing (both internal and external), to governance protocols. Furthermore, they provide clear directives on how innovation outcomes transition into the core business and offer mechanisms to capture, manage, and spread the knowledge gained throughout the entire innovation journey. 

Yet, the implications of missing or ambiguous innovation guardrails can be far-reaching: 

Never-ending Innovation Projects

In the absence of robust innovation guardrails, the gravitational pull of Business as Usual (BAU) operations can inadvertently drain resources earmarked for innovation. The pressing demands of the core business often take precedence, sidelining innovation initiatives. The consequence? Innovation projects end up lagging, forever chasing the mirage of completion.

Demotivated Innovation Champions

When innovation champions feel they’re navigating a maze without a clear map, their resource requests often fall on deaf ears. The lack of structured support and endless battles for resources culminate in burnout, disillusionment, and in some dire cases, a complete abandonment of promising innovation projects. 

Culture of Silos and Blame

Without clear guardrails, innovation becomes an isolated endeavour, pushed into the “innovation department”. The broader organisation struggles to identify how they fit into the innovation puzzle, leading to lack of support for innovation activities, missed opportunities and unexploited synergies. 

Brainstorming Overload Without Direction

Innovation is often synonymous with ideation sessions and brainstorming galore. But in the absence of clarity on the subsequent processes – how ideas are assessed, prioritised, and acted upon – such sessions can quickly turn counterproductive. The excitement fizzles out, replaced by frustration and scepticism about future engagements in innovation exercises. 

In essence, while innovation heralds uncharted territories, it doesn’t imply navigating without a compass. Clearly defined guardrails offer that directional clarity, ensuring innovation isn’t just an exercise in creativity but a structured approach to deliver tangible business value. If your organisation grapples with these symptoms and seeks to institute effective innovation guardrails, connect with us at @IMS Innovations. We’re here to help!