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We Don't Need No Innovation!

A series of articles identifying why innovation fails and what leaders can do about it

In today's corporate landscape, almost every company report proudly highlights its commitment to innovation. Leaders frequently tout their innovative efforts and share success stories. However, a closer examination often reveals that these claimed innovations fall into predictable patterns:

  1. Repackaged Features: Many purported innovations are merely new products or solution features that already exist in other products.

  2. Digital Process Tweaks: Process improvement through digital technology, often commonplace in the industry (such as a new app) is sometimes framed as innovation.

  3. Channel Expansion: Another common scenario is presenting a new channel, akin to what other companies are already implementing.

More often than not, these so-called innovations serve to sustain existing offerings, representing incremental improvements. Ironically, what is labelled as innovative is frequently just a novelty within the company. This raises a crucial question: why does the expressed intent to innovate, as declared by CEOs in annual reports and interviews, not manifest as genuine innovations that go beyond sustaining the status quo? In my journey as an innovation consultant, I've identified several common causes that transcend organizational boundaries. These issues prompted me to coin the title of this blog: "We Don't Need No Innovation!"—a sentiment often inferred by employees. Here is a breakdown of these causes:

1. Lack of Clarity at the Leadership Level Many organizations falter at the very foundation—leadership clarity on the necessity of innovation. A quick check of any organization's strategic plan often reveals the absence of:

  • An acknowledgement of an unsolved problem or a growth gap requiring innovation.

  • Identification of a critical pilot test or new experiment as the primary uncertainty impacting business goals.

  • A designated business head taking ownership of the innovation agenda.

These indicators reflect how seriously an organization regards innovation. Strategies and business plans dictate resource allocation and actions. Research suggests that unless an organization perceives a threat to performance, growth, or profits, innovation remains deprioritized. To rectify this, ensure that annual goals are intricately linked to innovation success, holding business leaders accountable for innovation-dependent growth.

2. Invisible Benefits and Resource Allocation

The benefits of innovation may not be immediately visible in the current planning period. Innovation projects, encompassing pilot tests, client trials, prototype development, and research, are often expensive. Yet, excluding them from business plans risks relegating them to a lower priority, depriving them of vital resources. Regular reviews, as critical as those for quarterly business results, are essential to ensure innovation projects receive the attention they deserve.

3. Ownership and Power Dynamics

Ownership plays a pivotal role in the success of innovation. Not all leadership team members wield equal influence within an organization. Business heads and CEOs hold significant power and discretion in resourcing decisions.

Assigning them responsibility for the innovation agenda, rather than relegating it to department heads, ensures greater attention and resources for innovation initiatives.

If genuine innovation is a priority, leaders must go beyond rhetoric and assess whether they are truly embodying their commitment or unwittingly echoing the sentiment of "We Don't Need No Innovation?"

If these insights ring a bell, explore the topic further by booking a free 60-minute consultation using the link with Krishnan.

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 30 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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