As you can speculate, there are many reasons that innovators fail. We are commonly told about this list: Henry Ford went broke five times before he finally succeeded with his model T; Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas and creativity and went bankrupt several times before success; Abe Lincoln lost every contest he entered until he became president; Albert Einstein did not read until he was seven and his teacher described him as “mentally slow”; Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team….

Fear of failure, or fear of the fear, drives many great ideas underground. To help illuminate that point and hear how to overcome the fear, please spend seven minutes with this TED and then come back to this writing….

I have found that to-do lists are critical, but I have also learned that not-to-do lists are also important. Use this list of “NOT TO DO” reasons and avoid them:

1. The “what is in it for me?” is not clearly explained. All of your team, and the builders of the product or service, must understand why this innovation will help them. It may increase profits and wages, it may help people in need, or it may make things easier.

2. The training and education component are left out There are numerous tools that are available to formalize your process and training for that process. Autodesk is a great source, but you must select one and focus.

3. Your rewards system is misaligned. If your rewards are based on short-term goals, or are based on exact cost targets, it will counteract your innovation.

4. The process itself is flawed. Be a student of how great innovators succeed and copy them. Don’t continue to use a failed internal process.

5. Team management of tasks, schedules, and emotions is poor. Most teams are overloaded with multiple projects. As a manager, do all you can to increase focus and limit distraction.

6. Not a calendar-based activity. This is the most common cause of missed promises. Use any of the new software tools and be disciplined.

7. Culture misalignment. Some companies and managers have little tolerance for mistakes. The successful innovation company learns from every mistake as an investment.

8. Too much internal focus. If all your team sees is the inside of your walls, how can they expand their thinking?

9. Too much conflict. Choose your teams wisely, and make sure the focus is on the process and not on each other.

10. Who is really the champion? You simply must have a innovation director or VP-level exec in your organization. If you don’t, do not expect success.

Directions for use of this list: Print it out, hand it out at your next innovation meeting, and discuss how to avoid these failure modes.

Remember: if you are not following your dreams of innovation, you will be working to bring someone else’s’ to life every day.

Keep innovating!

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