Innovate in a Resource-Constrained Environment

October 29, 2019

Contributor: Susan Moore

CIOs whose organizations are risk-averse or resource-constrained must address these barriers to innovation by focusing on realistic goals to succeed.

"Fail-fast" may work in Silicon Valley, but what if you are trying to innovate with no time, budget or staff, and everyone around you is afraid of failure?  Gartner’s 2019 Technology Innovation Strategy Survey found that the top five barriers to innovation are:

  • Employees focused on immediate goals (30%)
  • Employees resistant to change (28%)
  • Compliance restrictions  (27%)
  • Executive resistance (25%)
  • Lack of funding (24%)

“There are always resources if you know where to find them,” said Gartner VP Analyst Tsuneo Fujiwara at IT Symposium/Xpo™ on the Gold Coast, Australia. “Most innovation constraints are limits created by mismatched goals. Eventually organizations must remove the constraints to achieve their desired goals.”

“ There are always resources if you know where to find them”

Whether or not you feel constrained is dependent on the context. If you are trying to feed your child’s soccer team for $50, for example, it would be easy. But if you are using that same $50 to impress your board of directors at a Michelin star restaurant, they would barely get one entrée between them.

Parallel paths to innovation

Fujiwara told conference attendees to look for ways to work within constraints, and at the same time, work to remove the constraints. Temporarily lowering goals can help you to get started and achieve real results. First, focus on low-cost, low-risk innovation activities that deliver actual value. Then continue on to strategies that reshape your environment into a more open, supportive and innovation-friendly culture. “Don’t lose sight of the original goals while doing this,” Fujiwara said. “Work with executives to show why the goals are desirable and how they drive value, so they are receptive to removing the constraints.”

One step at a time

CIOs can use the Gartner innovation framework to plan and execute small activities that get you a bit closer to your desired goals. “By taking things one step at a time, you have at least some chance of innovation and improvements,” Fujiwara said. “You’ll also learn how to innovate, what new technologies are available and how your organization responds to change.”

“ Make innovation the most fun people can have at work”

This approach also helps to build support for innovation. Use the time to gather stories to tell. Engage and build relationships with stakeholders to prove the value. But don’t expect miracles. To successfully lead your organization along its innovation journey:

  • Be bold. Write down what success will look like in 18 months if you had no constraints.
  • Be realistic. Set achievable waypoints for innovation goals and targets.
  • Be balanced. Work within constraints while working to eliminate the constraints.
  • Be entertaining. Make innovation the most fun people can have at work.
  • Be picky. Focus relentlessly on activities that bring you and your organization the biggest value toward your goal.

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