Top 5 Innovation Antipatterns your Company Should Stop Doing

In this article, I will introduce you to 5 innovation anti-patterns I have met during my experiences. These “anti-patterns” are, in fact, some misuses of originally good ideas.

I will present them along with tips to detect and correct these bad behaviors.

5 – The Lean Machine

The Lean Machine

Original Idea

Improving your company’s process by adding some Lean (or other methodology).

How to Recognize ?

Your organization is ongoing a huge Lean Transformation (AFAIK, it’s a good thing), but the transformation is ongoing for 2 years. And apart from 2 teams out of 50 and the core Lean adoption team, nobody still cares. You still have lots of useless meetings, and 200 emails/day.

And you must force all managers to follow day longs presentations and workshops (Which is a huge lean waste), to make sure they apply the methodology.

The Advice

It’s not because it works for Toyota that it’s the best thing for you. And the way through adopting new work ethics is nonetheless important than the changes themselves. It can be a dedicated team, courses, counselling, workshops… but it should be seen in itself as an Agile process.

Plus, do not start huge methodology changes without ways to measure these changes. Otherwise, it will be an endless waste of money and time.

4 – The Tech-less

The Tech Less

Original Idea

Adding some Product Managers to your innovation team to start some initiatives.

How to recognize ?

You have way more project managers than tech guys. And your tech guys are under the direct management of the project and product managers.

A new project means new contractors to work on it. There is no technical knowledge management, and no capitalisation from the different projects. The only collective feedback tends to be the team meeting with mostly projects progress review.

Doing this, you are not innovating in your company, you are just trying to achieve IT projects. Some may be innovative but no impact on the company scale.

The Advice

Hire more tech guys, and empower them. Which means hire or train at least tech leads for your projects with the tech and the lead. Do not start a project with only the Product Manager and contractors because the technical responsibility should be on you too.

Give your tech teams time to think about innovation, to give technical feedback to the company. These insights are of high value for a company seeking innovation.

Products are good things, but you need some prototyping too.

3 – The Startup Funding

The Startup Funding

Original Idea

Partnering with or financing Startups to accelerate Innovation.

How to recognize ?

On every project, you hear the word Startup. It is sometimes a sign for Tech-less too. Because the lack of tech skills can drive you to this excess.

We want to do something, so let’s see which startup can do this for us. And soon, all your team is doing is startup screening. You just became a VC without knowing it, and the startups are now knocking at your door with business plans and funding needs, not working opportunities.

Innovation is not startup investments, whereas startup investments can be a part of your innovation strategy.

The Advice

Have your team stop spending their time on startup screening. This shouldn’t be their main focus.

You should only see a startup when you have a goal (ongoing project, prototype…), and the startup activity is relevant to that goal.

If possible, each meeting should be with a tech and a business person, and at the end should produce a feedback for the whole team (Reporting or in a Database).

Another solution is to have a dedicated person (a portfolio manager) to preselect the partners you want to work with and propose them to the team depending on the needs.

2 – The Think Tank

The Think Tank

Original Idea

Adding some IT big shots to your team to think about Innovation and brainstorm on new subjects.

How to recognize ?

You have way more tech guys than business people dedicated to Innovation. And your tech guys are more architects, PhD or tech officers, than devs.

Your squad is present on all the tech events in town, and you hardly see the ROI of all this conferencing stuff. You hardly see any reporting or projects. Only some technical gibberish on the latest trends in the IT world.

If your innovation team claims to have work on Big Data, Blockchain and AI on the same year, it’s a sign. And if you still have no tangible asset to show to your board, it’s another.

The Advice

Hire more project/product managers, and empower them. Do not start a project without a PM.

Thinking only innovation will not make any money, and will not spread outside the company and the technical guys. If your ideas aren’t tested with MVPs and real business cases, you are not innovating. Merely organising discussion groups.

Prototypes are good things, but you also need products.

1 – The Counselled Firm

The Counselled Firm

Original Idea

Ask for guidance and consultancy on selected topics when you can’t do it internally (for any reason).

How to Recognize ?

Whenever a new need arises, you already think which consultancy firm would fit best. You have a hard drive (or Cloud Drive) full of interesting PowerPoint describing your IT Architecture, your Infrastucture, your Data strategy, your Innovation strategy…but most likely what they could have been but they’re not.

You have more credit lines for Deloitte, PWC or KPMG than on your IT staff costs.

Truth is, if you’re in this situation you may suck at IT and Innovation (as a manager, or as a company). Most likely both. And no consistent innovation would take life in this situation, because you pay people telling you how to do things you can’t do (remember…because you suck).

The Advice

First, the manager : An Innovation manager or officer should understand IT, he should understand what’s an API, why do we do Micro Services, see the difference between private, hybrid or public Cloud, or why Data or AI can be important. He should at least be interested in it. Because these answers are worth millions of dollars nowadays.

Then, for the company : Be realistic.

For example, do not ask for a data strategy if you have 1 data scientist per 100 person and no plan to hire more.

You should probably ask your consultancy firm first : What should I change to be able to have a Data Strategy ?

And ask yourself : Am I willing to change some things in the organization to build my Data Strategy ? How much can I put on the table for it ?


In the end, there is no magic bullet. A good idea one day can quickly become a bad one the other day. Therefore, you should always stay aware of your current situation and of your strengths and weaknesses, as an organization. And adapt quickly.

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