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Clearing Innovation Road-Blocks 

It's just as sure a recipe for failure to have the right idea fifty years too soon as five years too late.

Hindervation(tm); identifies ways companies create artificial innovation road blocks. Identifying these road blocks is the first step in clearing a path to enhancing  product or service innovation in an organisation.

"In April 1993 I made a successful consultancy pitch to a bank client in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nelson Mandela had been released recently from prison on Robben Island. And in the long run up to the elections there were continual reports of violence.

Well my client's offices were in the central business district of Johannesburg. My hotel for the week was to the North in Sandton and my client loaned me one of their pool cars. The instructions to get to Sandton were something as follows. " Drive out of the garage and turn right - follow the road signs to the M1 Pretoria - Exit at Oxford Road (route marked 9) North - You'll come to a road-block - go straight through it - go straight on through the next three road-blocks past Rosebank and you'll come to the
Sandton Sun Hotel. It's quite easy to get there."

When she saw the look on my face she asked "What's wrong?". I asked "how many road-blocks do I have to drive straight through?". That's when I discovered that in South Africa, traffic lights are called "robots".

The moral of the story is: "Sometimes road-blocks are not quite what they appear and are quite easy to drive straight through."

A selection of 10 Hindervations(tm); follows.

    1. It is strictly against company regulations.

Well, why can't the rules be changed? When were the regulations written? What were the market and regulatory conditions then?

    2. Let's form a committee/working party to study it.

The only things that committees and working parties create are sub-committees and task forces.

    3. We're Number One in this market. Why try harder?

Hubris leads to nemesis. Midland Bank and Credit Lyonnais have both been "the world's largest bank".

    4. Write me a business plan.

Some people are good thinkers; others are good at business plans. Get them to work together.

    5. We've tried that one before.

Why didn't it work last time? Has the environment changed? Can it work in another country?

    6. It isn't in the budget.

Can the budget be increased? How good is this idea? Can something else be postponed?

    7. That's not our problem.

Can we make it our problem and therefore opportunity? Are there turf problems with someone else? If so, can we profitably contribute to the project?

    8. You are two years ahead of your time.

Sounds reasonable. J R Platt said: "It's just as sure a recipe for failure to have the right idea fifty years too soon as five years too late". However it is often a creativity killer. Instead of killing enthusiasm the idea generator should be told to develop the product and monitor the market for launch when the environment proved right.

    9. The computer department's too busy to work on this.

Probably true. But can a controlled test run be carried out? Can the software processing be subcontracted? Whilst it is dangerous to let new projects come in the way of current management problems such a scenario may also suggest in-house inefficiency. Perhaps the computer department should be closed!

   10. Let's put that one on the back burner for now.

A variant of 8. Now this could well make sense if the time is not right and for a host of reasons including 9 above. No point in swamping the operations department. But the back burner must be checked from time to time. Cross-currency FRAs (a financial derivative product) were developed and ready for launch and put on hold more than a year before FSAs, FXAs, ERAs and SAFEs.

Copyright reserved by Warren Edwardes, Delphi Risk Management Limited 1999 "Hindervation(tm);" is to be published by Warren Edwardes.

"How to capture the big new IDEA"

"what drives innovation?

Warren Edwardes is CEO of Delphi Risk Management, the London-based financial product creativity, communication and control consultancy. He is Director of The London School of Banking and Finance and author of inkey financial instruments. understanding and innovating in the world of derivatives - warren edwardesternational best-seller, Key Financial Instruments: understanding and innovating in the world of derivatives" 4 February 2000 Financial Times Prentice Hall ISBN 0273 63300 7 London 


Warren was previously on the board of Charterhouse Bank and has worked in the treasury divisions of Barclays Bank, British Gas and Midland Bank. He first researched into what were later to be called "derivatives" in 1975 and was part of the team that executed one of the world's first currency swaps in 1981. Since then he has devised and transacted numerous structures that form part of the history of derivatives. Edwardes can be contacted via

Bookmark this page as it will be updated frequently. Submit any "Hindervations (tm);" you have come across with a story for publication by e-mail to Delphi Innovation. Confidentiality will be respected if required.

For details of the Delphi Thought Pad, a group-ware system for managing the problem to thought to idea to solution to product/service process. The Thought Pad is based on Lotus Notes.