Innovation is on everyone’s corporate agenda these days, and there’s no shortage of advice on how to achieve it. But there’s little help available when it comes to learning what not to do. Or to put it another way, understanding what you may currently be doing that holds innovation back at your company. We recently found a provocative piece from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that drills down on how executives “stifle innovation” and the current flaws in how companies recruit talent for innovation.

According to the HBR article, “To be a serious competitor in the international market, companies must hire emotionally intelligent leaders who have the foresight to look ahead and develop strategies that will help them collaborate with their teams and adapt quickly to change.”

While companies and managers, in particular, have traditionally focused on hiring people with an entrepreneurial spirit, including creativity and resourcefulness, a recent Aperio study, cited in the HBR article, suggests focusing instead on cutting down on innovation “derailers.”  Derailers are characteristics that impede innovation. According to the researchers, employees with innovation derailer tendencies are more difficult to address and confront because the attributes are often developed in childhood.

5 Most Common Derailer Traits

As part of the study, the researchers identified the five most common derailer traits and how to overcome them, including:

  1. Unconscious neglect: This attribute centers on “carelessness and impulsivity” and can lead to incomplete work and poor communication with other employees. Executives are advised to assess team members’ talents and motivations, set clear goals for teams and individuals, and hold people accountable for results.
  2. Overprotectiveness: This character trait results in holding back ideas and one’s “best work” in fear of others taking credit or stealing ideas. The researchers recommend that managers encourage the use of mentors for its people to get honest feedback from people that “push them to improve.”
  3. Overconfidence: Not asking for help is a problem, according to the study. Managers are advised to help employees anticipate challenges or “bumps in the road,” while helping them better prepare for them by asking the right questions.
  4. Overexertion: The study suggests that overworking can lead to a loss of inspiration and motivation. Managers are encouraged to cultivate an environment of trust where employees can “admit” they need a break while setting clear expectations for people.
  5. Devaluation: Moving to “the next new thing” too quickly and a failure to focus on the present creates instability with employees, using all their energy on future pursuits versus what delivers value today. Managers are advised to promote autonomy, flexibility, and productivity in the workplace to overcome this innovation derailer.

Want to learn more? Read the complete HBR article. Or check out this recent APEX of Innovation post on How to Build a Culture of Innovation.