Mention an innovation center, and the response is polarizing. “It’s a waste of money,” or “I have no idea what they actually do” are warning signs that the innovation center doesn’t have enterprise-wide support or alignment. Yet some companies have innovation centers that crank out ideas that keep business units on the path toward growth.

A decade ago, as innovation became recognized as a competitive commodity, innovation centers sprang up in the largest of enterprises. Some succeeded. Many failed.

Innovation is typically thought of as an invention. But innovation isn’t necessarily about a product or something tangible. A less advanced product may be more successful if the business model is better, or if the innovation is focused on the manufacturing, sales, distribution, and marketing side, allowing a lower price point or customer convenience.

Why innovation centers fail

No matter how valuable the idea, if the innovation center isn’t embraced into corporate culture, it will fail. Failure isn’t necessarily due to the economy or the ideas generated. Most experts point to:

  • Ineffective governance: If the innovation team bows out of the process once the idea is handed over, it loses momentum.
  • Lack of enterprise-wide adoption: Negative viewpoints and false assumptions create a hostile climate for innovative ideas to take root.
  • ROI: If you want double the results, you may have to double the risk, and allow employees to make mistakes.

A better innovation process

What if the focus wasn’t on the center, but helping the company adopt an enterprise-wide thirst to never be satisfied with business as usual? What if the crew on the manufacturing floor had the ability to speak up and share how the plant could improve productivity, or the middle-manager who actually speaks with clients every day had the ear of the C-suite and could offer suggestions on how to grow business like never before.

So perhaps it’s not that an innovation center is ineffective, but rather the process or business model is broken. If an enterprise won’t embrace the change that innovation brings, how could it possibly implement the change needed to grow the organization?

If your company faced a large-scale organizational change, would it be ready? Take the Change diagnostic at Insigniam.com now.

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