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10 barriers to innovation | Design Thinking Camp 2019

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Missed the Design Thinking Camp Sofia 2019? Here is a summary of Mr. Pedro Janeiro's talk.

Pedro Janeiro is a managing partner at Design Thinkers Group and Design Thinkers Academy. He has dedicated his career to facilitating organizations around the world to make the transition from being strictly product-orientated and sales-driven towards being service-orientated and human-centered. He believes that the list of excuses that companies use to avoid innovation is long - the business is doing well, the team is already too busy running it as it is, the budget is tight and there is little room for experiments, etc. In their line of work, Janeiro and his team have come across 10 types of companies who struggle with change and have found ways to make them embrace ambiguity:

The sleepy company: “We don’t need to rock the boat”

The managers of this type of company say they don’t need change, because their market share is stable. But startups are already shaking entire industries with their brand-new attitude and business knowledge. Sleepy companies should invest in creating innovative products and services if they want to survive in this turbulent landscape.

The suffocated company: “We are running a very tight budget”

The entrepreneurial spirit in that type of company is missing because the original founders are no longer around. A bunch of managers and directors managing whatever is left from the firm, but they always say there is no money for innovation. “The worst excuse is to say: “We don’t have money for that”. Well, very soon you won’t have any money – you are going in a dangerous direction”, says Pedro Janeiro.

The coward company: “Why are we risking what we have already?”

This type of company doesn’t do enough prototyping and testing to reduce the internal perception of risk when launching a product. The best way to defuse the fears is to collect fresh feedback from the end-users.

The overanalytical company: “Is there any business case support this?!”

When working with this type of company, design experts should explain how they are creating value with the new concept. They should also try to convince managers that proper market piloting is fundamental and that true innovation is supported by the market results.

The snake pit company: “This new thing will cannibalize some of our current portfolio… why should we do it?”

Some of the team members of this type of company might feel that innovation is going to make some of the products from the current portfolio vanish. If that is the case, measure the market impact that design thinking is creating. “There is nothing like the “voice” of clients’ wallets to win an argument”, he claims.

The elephant company – “We’ll put that for next year’s budget”

This type of firm is always putting off investing in innovation because something else is more important. In order to show the power of design thinking, you can run parallel prototypes and pilots instead of large-scale projects to learn how to remove “scaling up” problems - do small things that get results.

The dinosaur company: “We have 30 years of experience in this industry… we deserve some credit”

Quite frequently, the managers of that company have lost touch with the market. To shift their perspective, the designer should take these “internal gurus” for some proper field research and disprove their supposed experience.

The market-driven company: “I’m sorry, but if we’re marketing, why is innovation trying to redefine products, services, prices, promotions, distribution channels, customer service…”

This type of company believes only in marketing, but marketing usually copies whatever innovation does and rebrands it. Managers usually spend 50 times more on marketing rather than on design. Janeiro sais very frequently it is a lost battle, so designers need to cooperate with marketers and find a non-competitive ground. “Or just make sure the CEO loves your work”, he points out.

9. The present company: “That’s not the market today”

This type of company usually focuses on the present, but ignoring trends could be highly disastrous. A designer could do trends analysis, trends spotting, communicate trends that fail and trends that succeed and help the company implement them into its portfolio.

The lost company: “We started redefining our strategy 3 years ago”

If a designer ever comes across that type of company, he should go away, because it is going to very hard to work with a firm that is taking so long to embrace innovation.

Illustration by Katerina Balakina

Pedro Janeiro’s last pieces advice:

  • Do not waste time on small side projects – focus on where innovation is needed.

  • Build a large funnel of ideas/ initiatives – co-create, share projects, share budgets, share resources, but keep that funnel well fed.

  • Take a systematic approach to breaking internal barriers. Identify them, address them, don’t let them resurface.

  • When scaling up your pilots or prototypes, take a systematic approach as well to overcome internal difficulties so that the remaining of the innovation funnel content will flow and scale easily to the market.


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