Is there a corporate leader who doesn't extol the virtues of innovation these days? Yet if innovation is so important, why do so many companies have so much trouble with it?
The reflexive response is that it is a human capital problem — that is, that most people just don't have what it takes to successfully innovate. I reject that view. Academic research in fact shows that almost anyone can become a competent innovator (with sufficient practice). I've seen countless examples of ordinary individuals displaying the creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance of the world's great innovators.
Those people can only be effective in the right context, but, ironically, many of the things leaders do to encourage innovation actually kill it. Look carefully at your company and you might spot one of four types of unintentional innovation assassins.