10 Terrible Pitfalls in Innovation


What is it?

The big idea:

Innovation often fails. This can be due to a total lack of any innovation initiatives or not meeting a sustainable and profitable business model.

It is helpful to understand what pitfall often hinder companies to successfully innovate.

We have summarized ten. 

When to use it:

Whenever you are working on a product or market strategy be warry to not step into these pitfalls.   

The ten pitfalls:

1.     Don’t change a winning team/product.

It is common wisdom not to change or touch what is working well. Yet, when the business is doing well is the best time to work on innovation.

2.     Stick to the (technology) curve

Sticking to the (technology) curve is engraved in the DNA of any well running business. It is an indispensable skill to survive. Yet eventually someone else will jump over the curve or change the curve.

3.     We use hindsight bias to predict the future (induction).

Based on our hindsight we make induction to predict the future. Yet by definition, looking back to the past moves your attention from the future. Can you imagine driving a car by looking into the back mirror for direction?

4.     We hate risk

Diverting from the proven path is risky. Yet sticking to the same path will eventually result in a dead end. Not innovating is the biggest risk.

5.     We fail to recognize real important unmet needs or pains.

Companies too often assume that the customer’s problems and needs doesn’t change. As a result, they do not really bother in reviewing the customer’s pains, gains, and use of the current solutions.

6.     We start off with a bad idea

There is nothing shameful about starting an innovation project from a bad idea. The danger is to fall in love with your own idea and fail to recognize during the validation process that it indeed is a bad idea. It demands a lot of courage to recognize your original idea was wrong and pivot in the right direction.

7.     A bad timing

Sometimes the technology is just not ready yet to provide the required user experience.

8.     We look to much at the competition

It is important to be aware of what the competition’s action. Yet if we look at the competition and the competition is looking at us, we all end up making the same products.

9.     We confuse differentiation and innovation

Being different is not a value by itself.  Innovation is about providing value.

10. Stay at the incumbent’s comfort zone of sustained innovation

When you are on top of the game, you don’t want the game to change. Eventually someone else will come up with game-changing innovation.

Tips in using the model:


  • Every three to five years is a good timeframe for a team to change.
  • Create at least two times per year time for the team to dive deep into the learnings from customer development.  Question how the product/market fit of the current product or service will evolve.
  • Combine hindsight with forward looking assumptions. Don’t limit yourself to market reports. Look at technology and market trends. Analyze the customer discovery learnings.
  • Mitigate risk by the lean innovation mindset and methodology. The validated learning loop and using cheap and simple pretotypes are key in mitigating the commercial risk.
  • Ongoing customer discovery is essential to staying up to date on your customer’s reality. Customer observation and interviews will eventually uncover latent needs that are not yet addressed by existing products or services.
  • There is nothing to be ashamed about if you start off with a bad idea. This is actually more the rule than the exception. It is key to recognize a bad idea fast enough. Through customer discover and validation.
    Use the learnings to either adapt the product or service, look for a good pivot (see training on pivot) or accept it is just not such a great idea and stop the development.
    Don’t fall in love with your idea! If you do, have other people do the validation.
  • The process of recognizing bad timing is the same as recognizing a bad idea. The difference is that if the idea is good but the timing is bad, it might be worthwhile to restart the product development at a later (and beter) time.
  • Look at the customer first, your own organization capabilities second and competition third. The key instrument to know your customers is by customer development (see lean innovation course)
  • All developments should be driven by customer value. Look for new ways to deliver value. Look for unsolved problems or challenges. This by itself will result in differentiation.
  • When you are the incumbent leader, it is advised to schedule at least once per year a “challenge the status quo” session. The challenge should be based on customer requirements and technology trends.
    If new opportunities come up, they can be validated by a team in combination with their day to day job. If an opportunity proves to be fit for further development, which can no longer be combined with the day to day job, a venture team is advised.   




·       Yoav Nir. (2017) ‘Game Changing Innovation, making theory a reality through practice’, die Keure Professional Publishing, 72-82


Tips in using the model: