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Discovery Driven Planning:  Most barriers to growth are self-inflicted

I am spending today with a very well-managed, large company, and even here the long fingers of the economic slowdown are creating even more obstacles to innovation – led growth than in more ‘normal’ times.

The issues they raised as barriers to growth include:

  • The “de-risk” mode that many companies have gone into which makes anything even remotely unpredictable look dangerous
  • A lack of a global mindset that leads to local optimization of investment and cuts off more promising corporate projects
  • Brand conflict – when a new project isn’t a great fit for the existing brand
  • Churn among the managers and leaders involved in innovation projects
  • Silos within the organization
  • Existing metrics and rewards that are not suitable for innovation
  • Fear of cannibalization of the existing business
  • Fear, in general
  • Short-termism driven by quarterly results pressure
  • Politics
  • Existing power structures in the company

What I find absolutely fascinating about this list (and remember, this is an extremely well managed firm) is the extent to which the barriers to growth are essentialy self-inflicted.  They are internal processes, systems, relationship sand politics that can get in the way of doing anything new.  Existing companies tend to have accumulated lots of these sorts of barriers – but it doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion that these will be or should be in place.  Here is where adroit innovation leadership, to me, can make all the difference.  This is one of the key themes in our forthcoming book Discovery Driven Growth.

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