Mike Hatrick is the Global Head of IP Strategy and Portfolio at Volvo Group Trucks Technology. With more than 10 years of experience in innovation management, Mike is knowledgeable about the keys to success and the reasons for failures of an innovation program. 

He has seen several innovation programs that generated enthusiasm and achieved great engagement at their launch but went downhill after a few years. The innovation team and management were then asking themselves, “What was the point of this initiative?”, “What did it really achieve?”, “Was it a total failure?”

That kind of disappointment is hard to deal with. However, it is very important to look at the bigger picture and also remember your longer-term vision.

The reality of innovation in big organizations is that multiple factors can lead your company to success or failure when it comes to running a sustainable innovation program. 

Here are the top five points that Mike believes every company should consider carefully to prevent failure:

1. The starting point and finish line

Many times, we overlook the significant difference between what we hope to accomplish and what is actually occurring. Innovation is often viewed as a risky endeavor, especially if it is approached as an experiment where we learn as we go. However, in a corporate setting, we do not typically take such risks with other initiatives, so why do we do so with innovation programs? It is essential to not only determine the starting point but also establish the finishing line.

2. Organizational resistance

The C-level and middle management have high expectations and often show a lot of resistance, especially at the beginning, but they are not the only ones. We often blame them, forgetting that the other colleagues are also involved and can be a factor of failure if they are not on board. As an innovation manager, it is critical not only to identify the organizational barriers but to admit they exist and decide pragmatically how to handle them.

3. Hand Shake

In large organizations, there may be obstacles that prevent innovators and executors from working together effectively. It's important to keep in mind that innovation is not solely about execution. Many successful companies excel at executing their plans and may not be receptive to someone telling them how to do their job. Therefore, it's crucial to clarify the role of innovation, which should be focused on providing great ideas for execution to build upon.

4. Culture takes time

When dealing with a large company of 10,000 individuals, attempting to transform the culture of the organization is akin to altering the atmosphere of a small town. Each person has a distinct background and set of experiences, and the company itself possesses market experience.

It is unrealistic to expect complete transformation within a few years and achieve success. The key is to work with the existing culture and evolve gradually rather than undergoing radical changes, particularly in large and successful entities.

5. Role of the Innovation Manager

The role of an innovation manager is relatively new in companies, and when asking ten of them about their background, you are likely to receive ten different answers. While most positions in a company progress from an entry-level position to a team manager, and then possibly to a Director or VP position, the path to becoming an innovation manager is less defined. This raises questions about their role, where they come from, and what it's like to be one.


Mike has compiled five reasons why innovation programs fail and five tips to enhance your chances of success. However, it's worth noting that even if you encounter failure, it's a natural part of the process and can provide valuable lessons for future endeavors.

Jump to Section