The 6 Biggest Innovation Mistakes

by Brad Fein

Innovation is the key to success. Rather than merely following the herd, you must learn to innovate. This gives you a competitive edge over other businesses. At the end of the day, those who get there first are best able to exploit the benefits. Think about the kind of revenue Apple was able to enjoy before others caught up with it.

As our global society moves in the fourth industrial revolution, (that being digitization), innovation becomes more important than ever. This is not limited to large corporations like Apple and Google (though there are certainly many examples of corporations that did not innovate and as a result failed), but this need for innovation also extends to startups, co-operatives, and even government organizations.

What is innovation in the corporate world?

Being an innovator means much more than creating products that stand out. Instead, you must be the pioneers of change. The 100 most innovative companies of 2018 have that in common. They invest in a small business or idea. Moreover, they provide their employees with resources needed to grow as well as lend their resources to external innovators.

The pitfall of innovation

We live in a world where innovation is a necessity rather than an additional touch to your business. Companies are not just competing to get a better market share, they are also competing to become the front-runner. In such a landscape, it is easy to go overboard. This can lead to making mistakes that lead to innovation and product failures.

Let’s face it. Not every innovation can be life-changing. Some of them are bound to fall on their faces. In the world of cut-throat competition, only the fittest survive. To ensure that you do, there are various innovation mistakes you must avoid.

The Deadly Mistakes

Here are six of the biggest innovation mistakes that undermine efforts:

Rushing the initial steps

Every innovation begins as just another idea. Once you get the idea, you are tempted to develop it as soon as you can. This is the biggest mistake you can make. To make sure that an idea sticks, you must spend a considerable amount of time on the initial steps.

The first few steps lay the foundation for the success of the idea. If you rush it, you might be overlooking key pitfalls or areas of improvement. Your competition could detect this and play it to their advantage. Even if they don’t, there’s no telling whether or not your idea is fit for the market.

Make sure you don’t rush it. The market research isn’t a waste of time. Idea generation, filtering, and testing are all integral in making sure that the foundations of your innovation are strong enough to bear the hardships of the marketplace.

Don’t just rely on a good sales pitch or a marketing campaign to sell an idea. The idea must sell itself, and be convincing. After all, a convincing marketing and sales strategy can get people to try the product. But, it can’t make them use it again and again.

Spending too much time on initial steps

While rushing the conceptualization process is bad, so is spending too much time on it. Innovation cannot be made after years of thinking.


Firstly, the chances are that another company will likely launch the same idea before you. Secondly, the landscape you’re working in can change in the blink of an eye. You need to constantly innovate to stay up to date.

If you work on the same idea for years without updating, when you hit the market, you’ll risk being irrelevant to the current landscape. A facet of innovation within corporations today is use of the create-test-scale model in order to bring products to market quicker.

Not investing enough

Some companies treat the research of innovation as just another cost they must bear. If you have this mentality, the chances are that you’re reluctant to allocating the required resources to the idea. There are countless ideas that never see the light of day as companies think they are not financially feasible.

You never know which of these innovations have the power to make a difference. Try not to look at these projects as expenses. Think of them as an investment in a profitable future. The outlook you have as a company towards innovation governs whether you will be able to innovate.

Staying within the box

As cliché as it sounds, the saying “think outside the box” is immensely applicable to innovative ideas. Creativity and novelty are what drives innovation. Close-minded thinking won’t get you anywhere. Companies that merely try to twist innovations of others and present them as their own fail at leaving a mark.

Think about it. Did you ever envision using a smartphone before Apple introduced one? What about a driverless car? There is a high probability that you didn’t. This is because these innovations were outside the box.

To the layperson, these needs were dormant. The companies were able to detect the dormant needs and deliver a product that satisfied them. Companies which look at superficial or already targeted needs of consumers are likely to fail in innovation.

Instead, think beyond what is visible and doable. Try to understand the psyche behind consumer behavior and innovate where it matters.

Not encouraging people to think

Organizational cultures can make or break innovative minds. There are some cultures which encourage their employees to think and their ideas are appreciated. Creativity and doing things in new ways is seen as a skill rather than disruptive behavior.

Then, there are companies that consider such employees to be a liability. They try to stifle creativity in an effort to achieve standardization. This is one of the biggest innovation mistakes you can make. Your employees are your think tanks. They are the source of great ideas. If you don’t nurture them and give an inclusive environment, you can never innovate. They should be allowed to openly pinpoint the flaws of a given idea or give their take on it. Effective brainstorming is key to quality idea formation.

Embracing failure and when to let it go

Many employees are afraid of taking risks because of the punishments that they might have to face. At the same time, some companies give so much liberty to their members that they roll out badly constructed ideas because they know there are no consequences.

Both of these ways have consequences. You have to know when to hold your employees accountable for a bad idea and when to let it slide. During the initial stages of product development or idea generation, a failure is not necessarily a death sentence. Here, letting it go is advisable. However, sloppy mistakes when commercialized should be reprimanded.

Mistakes to learn from

You might think that these mistakes are easy to avoid. However, they seep into your organization and work without you even realizing. Even the big companies have failed to avoid some of the common innovation mistakes. Here are some of the biggest let downs in terms of innovation:


Microsoft once had a golden opportunity to become a big player in the smartphone industry. However, innovative mistakes stopped it from doing so. Back in 2008, Microsoft realized the potential of the smartphone industry and acquired a startup known as Danger.

The founder of the startup went on to develop the famous Android operating system. However, it wasn’t able to make much of a difference to Microsoft.


It was because of Microsoft’s insistence on sticking with the old methods. This is a classic example of not thinking outside the box. Rather than understanding what a smartphone really means to consumers, they decided to cut all the popular apps that made the startup famous in the first place. They did so to make the phone compatible with their current operating system.

After acquiring the startup and developing a phone, which basically lacked all that was needed, Microsoft introduced the new phone to the market in 2010, only for it to fail miserably. The product had to be pulled 2 months in, such was the extent of its failure.


Xerox is considered to be the innovation failure example that marketers should learn from. While millennials don’t have much recollection of the popularity of the company, Gen Y does. There was a time when photocopying and Xerox were used interchangeably. Such was the power of the company.

Then, technology and digital revolution happened.

Rather than innovating, for a long time, Xerox stayed true to its core. As the world moved towards digital data management, no one really needed what Xerox had to offer. Only a few people know that back when Xerox was the market leader, it did try to innovate.

In 1971, PARC researchers invented technology like personal computers, laser printing, Ethernet and much more! However, it never commercialized these inventions and hence lagged behind.


While there are just six mistakes mentioned, there are many more ways you can go wrong when innovating. We don’t mean to scare you. We are just letting you know that there are various things you must be cautious of. And you cannot do so unless you know what these factors are.

Make a point of acquiring knowledge about innovative failures. Learn from the mistakes from the best of companies. Avoid these mistakes. Prosper.

Cover Image Credits

The 6 Biggest Innovation Mistakes 1

Written by: JurijRadzevic

Growth hacker with experience in digital marketing and SEO. Graduated from The University of Southern Denmark with a master’s degree in marketing, globalization, and communication. Currently working as the 

Head of Marketing at Valuer.aiin Copenhagen.

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