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Beware! 4 traps for innovation among SMEs
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Strategy & Innovation

Beware! 4 traps for innovation among SMEs

Is your SME in the doldrums? You long for innovation, but all your efforts seem to be going nowhere. Achieving innovation in an SME is not easy, but you may be unintentionally making it difficult for yourself. Maybe you've fallen into one of these traps. Antwerp Management School can help you get around these obstacles.
Remco lenstra
by Remco Lenstra | May 23, 2016
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1. Conservative corporate culture

The most treacherous trap is a conservative corporate culture. A corporate culture that relies on vertical reporting can be pernicious for innovation. Think of it this way: if employees lower on the ladder are constantly accountable to the top, they are less likely to take initiative and propose alternatives. This can keep knowledge in places where it doesn't pay off.

Therefore, it is important for SMEs to create an environment where conversation is possible and where employees can move flexibly in and out of their roles. The talent in the organization must be utilized to its fullest potential, and this is only possible if an open corporate culture is created.

2. Lack of cooperation

Continuing from the previous paragraph, it can be said that innovation in many SMEs is prevented by a lack of internal collaboration. In many SMEs, the individual needs to know too much to do his or her job properly. Also, SMEs are often reluctant when it comes to expanding staff. This causes many employees in the organization to be expected to take on a massive workload.

Because employees are used to having a lot of responsibility, it is often difficult for them to let go of parts of this responsibility. Creating a climate where conversation is possible makes it easier for employees to let go of some of their responsibility and allow employees who may be lower down the ladder to take over some of it.

Not only should there be enough well-trained people, but new forms of collaboration should be sought to make the best use of the knowledge within an organization.

3. Lack of time

The third problem often cited as a reason for lack of innovation is lack of time. Due to the above problem of task distribution, one person is often overburdened, making people feel they can only deal with their tasks and not think out of the box.

On top of that, it is difficult for employees in small businesses to relinquish control because they are often afraid of the complications that this entails. Lack of time, combined with a lack of relevant trained employees, makes innovation enormously difficult and perhaps impossible.

4. Lack of long-term vision

It sometimes happens that SMEs work in the moment and thus address problems as they arise. Due to significant uncertainties, many SMEs are often reluctant when it comes to long-term planning, but this also means that many SMEs lack purposeful planning. One has little to work toward. Instead, the plan often seems to involve little more than continuing to function as one has always done.

This way of thinking is pernicious for innovation because one remains stuck in a conservative mindset. Which brings us back to the first point. So the biggest problem, the trap that forms a rabbit hole to all the other pitfalls, seems to be a conservative corporate culture. Corporate culture traps knowledge where it doesn't pay off, makes it difficult for employees to collaborate, and makes an existing time crunch even more oppressive. However, it is not easy to change corporate culture in a short period of time.

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