Innovation couch

Have you ever felt frustrated during an innovation effort? You are not alone. Lie down on the Innovation couch and let’s talk about it.

Please forgive this little joke, no intention of making fun of the world of psychoanalysis, but it allows me to frame a little bit how innovation is many times a frustrating endeavour and what we can do about it. The idea for this post came a few days ago speaking with a friend who also works in innovation management at his/her company. After speaking for a while about some things that were not going as expected and how misunderstood he/she felt, we were able to add some perspective on the matter, after which he/she told me that getting it out and talking about it had really helped.

Because this is a hard truth, Innovation and Innovation management are often quite frustrating. Very interesting, mostly rewarding but often frustrating. Actually, this is something I always tell any new colleague that starts working with me in Innovation Management. You have landed in a great and very fulfilling job, where you will learn a lot and will be making the future possible, but… rarely things will go the way you want the first time (or the second…), so be ready to manage your frustration and learn from it. 

And it certainly makes sense that Innovation is frustrating. It could not be otherwise! You are working “against” the status quo, you are trying to change how things are done. Of course, there is going to be resistance from those who are used or even comfortable with the “old way”; but this is something all of us know. However, what is not so expected is the lack of support or understanding of those who are there supposedly to help you innovate (to support, finance or even buy your innovation). But again, this is also to be expected. New things are difficult to understand and there is no guarantee that your innovation will be a success (specially if it is a really transformative one), so they are always a bet, an attractive possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. So blind trust is logically difficult to obtain and should never be expected, although a degree of risk taking is certainly neccessary to obtain worthwhile innovations.

I am afraid this is the way of the game, although I am not trying to paint a pessimistic or ugly picture. It is actually one of the most interesting areas where you can work, but as JFK said, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Some people think that the big hurdles for innovation are scientific or technological, and they can certainly be huge ones, but dealing with rejection and misunderstanding is certainly at least as challenging, although not so expected when you start in this. Innovation perseverance, as Phil McKinney says, is one of the most important characteristics of a successful innovator. Mind me, I am not saying you should persevere until you sink with the boat, of course, but jumping off at the first wrong turn is a perfect recipe for not getting anywhere.

However, do not despair… The good thing about this is that most of us in the Innovation game are actually in the same place, or have been in the past, normally several times. So, when you feel that frustration creeping upon you, don’t give up, find a fellow innovator with whom you can speak and share your thoughts and experiences. I am sure you will see things with more perspective afterwards. Actually, apart from business networking or sharing best practices, this is one of the best values of Innovation communities, whatever shape they may have… the possibility to feel that you are not alone in the battle of Innovation.

So next time you feel misunderstood and want to say: “How can’t they see it!”… get some perspective, talk to a trusted innovation colleague, share your frustration on the “innovation couch” and… KEEP GOING!! 


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