Managers – Are You Unknowingly Quashing Great Ideas?

Research shows that innovation is widely accepted as the driving force of growth and competitive advantage in organizations (Barsh, Capozzi, & Davidson, 2008; Tellis, Prabhu, & Chandy, 2009), and yet, many companies still struggle with the slow pace of moving novel ideas through to implementation.


Despite organization’s desire to ‘think big’ and ‘be bold,’ innovation is often hindered by decision-makers within management. This is often due to the level of uncertainty that accompanies new ideas; various conditions that may bias individual managers to assess ideas negatively; and the general challenges of lack of time, resources, etc.

As a manager, it is important to be aware of these pitfalls. While many ideas are not novel and useful, care must be taken to objectively think through their potential. You may be saying no to an idea that could create massive advantage for your organization.

Case in point – while it’s well known that Kodak researchers invented the fist digital camera in 1975, its managers failed to see the long term opportunity. Inaction led to Sony eventually overtaking Kodak in the digital photography space (Burkus, 2013). And the real downfall came when Kodak missed the societal transition from cameras to phones (and social media/photo apps). They actually did acquire a photo sharing site in 2001 – but used it to entice customers to print more photos, not share them online. Gulp! Another example is Xerox, who developed a blueprint for the first personal computer. Management failed to sufficiently invest in the idea and eventually Steve Jobs and Apple seized the opportunity and the rest is history (Burkus, 2013).

Granted, while the market shifting examples above are indeed rare, if innovation is truly important managers must stay open to listening and assessing employee ideas. And while innovative staff have a responsibility to pitch their ideas effectively, they can only do so much – great ideas will dry up/move on if all they hear is no.