I saw a Little Caesars TV ad extolling the benefits of the brand’s pizza dough remaining unchanged over time. Perhaps the TV ad is a delayed reaction to a Domino’s TV ad several years earlier about innovating because it finally listened to customers saying how bad Domino’s was.

The Little Caesars TV ad shows one employee questioning another about making pizza dough from scratch every day for fifty years without ever changing.  The veteran employee explains the instruction to make pizza dough by hand daily is laminated, and "lamination is forever."

It's a mildly humorous ad.

It's a significant point though when it comes to the barriers to innovation many organizations erect.

While you may not have your organization’s barriers to innovation laminated and on display everywhere, there are likely other phrases, labels, and activities suggesting particular practices are “forever.” Since they AREN’T laminated, they may be easy to miss.

30 Barriers to Innovation (other than Lamination)

Little-Caesar3

What should you be looking out for with less obvious barriers to innovation? They could be hiding as things talked about or understood to be:

  1. Anything that has stood the test of time
  2. Anything with a proven track record
  3. Assets everyone is trying to leverage
  4. Assumptions about the marketplace that everyone understands
  5. Behaviors that are safe and comfortable within the organization
  6. Capabilities or products central to success
  7. CEO-endorsed initiatives
  8. Challenging discussions that are off the table
  9. Core capabilities or assets
  10. Corporate traditions
  11. Expectations everyone understands need to be met
  12. Foundational aspects of the brand that took hold without much forethought
  13. Ideas someone has struggled to sell-in so no one wants to change anything and re-sell them
  14. Known entities
  15. Long-standing policies
  16. Off-limits topics and conversations
  17. Priorities that go unexamined or unchanged
  18. Programs considered familiar and safe
  19. Programs that are routinely funded with few questions
  20. Programs where leadership is solidly on-board
  21. Questions that have been decided, and everyone is expected to "move on”
  22. Slam dunks
  23. Something that’s clearly considered out-of-bounds
  24. Something strongly aligned with senior management expectations
  25. Successful programs that nobody would dare tweak
  26. Sure things
  27. Things no one questions
  28. Things that are easy to accomplish
  29. Top-down directives
  30. Well-respected people and programs

You see, not all barriers to innovation involve lamination as the main way to say something is “forever.” There are all kinds of ways to make it clear that something in your organization is set aside, protected, or untouchable.

Maybe some of them DO need to be forever. A lot of them, however, are probably ripe for change. Be on the lookout and step up to be the one trying to push past all those barriers to innovation and do new and better things. – Mike Brown

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