How to overcome human barriers to innovation?

Overcoming human barriers to innovation: Fostering a culture of creativity and growth

Innovation is essential for growth and competitiveness in today's rapidly changing business environment. However, human barriers such as fear of failure, resistance to change, and lack of engagement can significantly hinder innovation efforts. In this blog, Dr Richard Dune explores how organisations can overcome these human barriers to foster a culture of innovation, providing key facts, definitions, best practices, and recommendations.

Key facts and statistics

  • Fear of failure - A recent poll revealed that 85% of executives believe fear holds back their organisation’s innovation efforts often or always.
  • Employee engagement - Organisations that actively engage employees in innovation processes report a 30% increase in employee satisfaction and productivity.
  • Cultural resistance - Studies show that up to 70% of change initiatives fail due to resistance and lack of support from employees.
  • Career impact - Employees at leading innovators are 3.6 times less likely to fear negative career impacts from their innovation efforts than those at average or below-average innovators.

Key definitions

  • Innovation - Involves the process of generating, developing, and implementing new ideas, products, services, or processes that create significant value and drive growth.
  • Human barriers to innovation - Refer to psychological and cultural obstacles within an organisation that hinder adopting and implementing new ideas. These can include fear of failure, resistance to change, lack of motivation, and insufficient support.

Fear factor - Overcoming human barriers to innovation

Compliance with relevant legislation and regulations is crucial for fostering a safe and supportive environment for innovation. Key regulatory bodies include:

  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - Ensures workplace practices do not compromise employee safety.
  • Care Quality Commission (CQC) - Monitors health and social care services to maintain high standards.

Addressing fear of failure

Create a safe environment

Foster a culture where employees feel safe taking risks and experimenting without fear of negative consequences. Encourage leaders to model this behaviour by sharing their experiences of failure and learning. As Naomi Kelman, CEO of Willow, states, "Creating a safe environment for innovation is really what you need to do to get the greatness out of the people who work with you, which is ultimately what drives growth".

Celebrate learning

Shift the focus from failure to learning. Recognise and celebrate the lessons learned from unsuccessful attempts to promote a growth mindset.

Encouraging employee engagement

Involve employees in decision-making

Engage employees in innovation by involving them in decision-making and encouraging their input. This increases their sense of ownership and commitment to new initiatives.

Provide training and resources

Offer training and resources to help employees develop the skills needed for innovation. This can include workshops, online courses, and access to innovative tools and technologies.

Overcoming resistance to change

Communicate the vision

Clearly communicate the vision and benefits of innovation to all employees. Help them understand how new initiatives align with the organisation's goals and their individual roles.

Address concerns

Listen to employees' concerns and address them proactively. Providing clear, transparent information can help alleviate fears and build trust.

Building a supportive culture

Recognise and reward innovation

Implement recognition and reward programs to celebrate innovative ideas and achievements. This will boost morale and motivate employees to contribute creatively.

Promote collaboration

Encourage collaboration across departments and teams to leverage diverse perspectives and expertise. Create opportunities for cross-functional projects and innovation workshops.

Fear of career impact

Integrate innovation into career paths

Make innovation an explicit requirement of professional success. Leading innovators are more successful at alleviating career concerns by integrating innovation into career advancement criteria. As the research indicates, these companies are 2.9 times more likely than average and lagging innovators to expect executives to demonstrate innovation initiative to advance.

Dealing with uncertainty

Encourage risk-taking

Top innovators incentivise risk-taking and experimentation, understanding that not all projects will succeed but that valuable lessons can be learned. Employees of top innovators are 11 times more likely than those at other organisations to say their organisations incentivise risk-taking.

Managing fear of criticism

Facilitate open critique

Create an environment where ideas can be openly critiqued without fear of personal criticism. Employees of successful innovators are three times more likely to say that their organisations make it easy to critique ideas openly.

Case studies

Google’s 20% time policy

Google’s 20% time policy allows employees to spend 20% of their work hours on projects that interest them. This policy has led to the creation of successful products like Gmail and Google Maps, illustrating the power of giving employees the freedom to innovate.

3M’s innovation culture

3M fosters a culture of innovation by encouraging employees to take risks and supporting their creative efforts. The company’s 15% rule allows employees to spend a portion of their time on projects outside their regular duties, leading to breakthroughs like Post-it Notes.


  • Foster a safe environment - Create a culture where employees can take risks and learn from failures.
  • Engage employees - Involve them in decision-making and provide the training and resources needed to innovate.
  • Communicate clearly - Clearly communicate the vision and benefits of innovation to all employees and address their concerns.
  • Recognise and reward - Implement recognition and reward programs to celebrate innovative ideas and achievements.
  • Promote collaboration - Encourage cross-functional collaboration to leverage diverse perspectives and expertise.
  • Integrate innovation into career paths - Make innovation an explicit requirement of professional success.
  • Encourage risk-taking - Incentivise risk-taking and experimentation and support projects that may not initially succeed.
  • Facilitate open critique - Create an environment where ideas can be openly critiqued without fear of personal criticism.


Overcoming human barriers to innovation is essential for fostering a culture that supports creativity and growth. By addressing the fear of failure, engaging employees, overcoming resistance to change, and building a supportive culture, organisations can unlock their full innovation potential.

At The Mandatory Training Group, we are committed to supporting organisations in their innovation journeys. Our comprehensive training programs and compliance solutions, including ComplyPlus™, help build the internal capacity needed for successful innovation adoption and implementation. Click here for more insights and updates on the diffusion of innovations and other key health and social care topics.

About the author

Dr Richard Dune

With over 20 years of experience, Richard blends a rich background in NHS, the private sector, academia, and research settings. His forte lies in clinical R&D, advancing healthcare tech, workforce development and governance. His leadership ensures regulatory compliance and innovation align seamlessly.

Fostering a culture of creativity and growth - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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