Barriers, what barriers?

If innovation was easy, we would all be doing it!

Ok, I just made that quote up but it captures the essence of a leader needing to proactively identify and remove barriers to innovation. Some barriers are easy to see, like access to needed information or expertise, and you can take quick action to remedy the situation. Other barriers are much harder to see. In fact, some may not even be present anymore but still stop your people in their tracks!

underwater-photo-big-pike-eso-32739506As a lake-cabin-owning Minnesotan the following blog caught my eye this summer (Blanchard LeaderChat). Dick Ruhe describes an experiment called the “Pike Syndrome” which suggests that even unseen barriers or historical barriers can stop your people from taking the risks, collaborating and trying the new ideas that are required for innovation.

Before you can remove barriers, large or small, present or past, you must be able to recognize them. Sarah Bridges, Ph.D.,  a psychologist and leadership consultant, has introduced a concept called Environmental IQ that can help you identify important barriers that your people face. Sarah Bridges Whitepaper  Environmental IQ highlights the overall importance of situational, or environmental, factors in success at work.

  • Demographics
  • Technology
  • Financial
  • Resources
  • Geography/Proximity
  •  Regulations
  • Internal Politics
  • Competition
  • Community

These same environmental factors may also be barriers to innovation for your people. By using Dr. Bridges’ checklist, that we modified for higher education, you can initiate conversations and identify barriers that your people are currently facing, or have faced in the past, that are stopping them from taking action to innovate. Situational Awareness Worksheet – MnSCU version  Knowing what the actual barrier is gives you a better chance to take action to help your people overcome it or to remove it from their environment.

What are some of the barriers your people face when they need to be innovative and how have you helped them get past the barriers?

Todd Thorsgaard


One response to “Barriers, what barriers?

  1. Michael Van Keulen

    I wouldn’t consider myself a great innovator, but I have discovered, at least for myself, that physically being in a different location (other than my office or even a typical academic environment) when engaging in activites designed to spur innovative thinking really has a big impact on my ability to think differently.


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