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Five Toughest Obstacles to Innovation

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Written by: Denis Story

Innovation is one of the more frustrating examples of “easier said than done.” Google “innovation” and you get millions of hits. Obviously, not all of those citations – if even a fraction of them – refer to genuine innovators. There’s just not that much out there or we wouldn’t still be driving fossil fuel-powered cars or changing light bulbs every few months.

So what makes innovation as rare as an honest politician? Five things (or course) immediately spring to mind.

5. Inertia

Or, as the genius himself, Albert Einstein put it, “Nothing happens until something moves.” And, sure, it sounds simple enough, but change on even the slightest scale requires more effort than doing nothing at all. How many of us stay in the job, the same relationship, hell, the same town because it’s the path of least resistance. Inertia’s stronger than gravity when it comes to breaking the same, stagnant orbit.

4. The unknown

Few things are as frightening, if not downright paralyzing, as the unknown. Sure, this could be the cause for inertia’s effect, but it’s certainly difficult to think outside the box when you have no clue where the box ends and the unknown begins (with apologies to Schrödinger).

To return to an earlier reference, someone saw past the known (horse travel) into something so completely foreign, that most people didn’t even know what to call it at first. Now, we can’t imagine life without our horseless carriages.

3. Haters

And, no, I’m not talking Taylor Swift here. We’ve all heard the tale of the lobsters in the fishing basket, dragging any of their colleagues down that dare aspire to the escape. I guess you could call it an extreme case of misery loving company. Or maybe it’s nothing more than mediocrity hating excellence. It’s easier to justify one’s own lack of success when you can’t point to anyone’s else’s.

2. Rivals

Similarly – and probably most obviously – there are your rivals, who, of course, want nothing more than to see you fail, or at least maintain the status quo.

Apple’s an excellent example of this. Aside from Samsung’s outright design theft, the Korean tech giant (among others) were quick to go to court to stop Apple success with first the iPhone, then the tablets. Besides, shaking up the status quo means they’ll have to work harder. And nobody wants that…

1. Yourself

And, finally, the single greatest obstacle to innovation is yourself, whether its your own fears, lack of ambition or inability to see beyond the way you do business today. You might even say each of us is our own greatest rival.

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