Adam Hanft has blogged about reasons why a company might have rejected proposals for the iPhone:
• “Consumers will reject a keyboard they can’t feel.”
• “No one will spend that much for a phone.”
• “You can’t expect people to get a new number online.”
• “You can’t succeed working with just one carrier.”
Now, whether or not the iPhone ultimately proves to be a success, Adam's point is very important. "Innovation" is talked about everywhere these days, and everyone wants some. Usually the concern is about idea generation: we've got to come up with some innovative ideas!
But, in my experience, there's no shortage of ideas around, and some of them are (naturally) quite good. Rather, I think the biggest barrier to delivering on innovation is the kind of reasoning cited by Adam. It's always easy to find reasons why something might not work, but it is very hard to grow a new idea into a successful product. The warm and fuzzy feeling of familiar technologies, business models, organization charts or corporate culture keeps people jumping in place, all the while chanting that innovation is important. To drive success from innovation requires shouldering of risk, and acceptance of failure, flexibility and persistence. These qualities are rare, and hence we really notice when a critical mass of them succeeds with the "next big thing."