To catalyze innovation, companies have invested billions in internal venture capital, incubators, accelerators, and field trips to Silicon Valley. Yet according to a McKinsey survey, 94% of executives are dissatisfied with their firms’ innovation performance. Across industries, one survey after another has found the same thing: Businesses just aren’t getting the impact they want, despite all their spending. Why? We believe that it’s because they’ve failed to address a huge underlying obstacle: the day to-day routines and rituals that stifle innovation.

Fortunately, it’s possible to “hack” this problem. Drawing on the behavioral-change literature and on our experiences working with dozens of global companies, including DBS, Southeast Asia’s biggest bank, we’ve devised a practical way to break bad habits that squelch innovation and to develop new ones that inspire it.

Like most hacks, our approach isn’t expensive, though it does take time and energy. It involves setting up interventions we call BEANs, shorthand for behavior enablers, artifacts, and nudges. Behavior enablers are tools or processes that make it easier for people to do something different. Artifacts—things you can see and touch—support the new behavior. And nudges, a tactic drawn from behavioral science, promote change through indirect suggestion and reinforcement. Though the acronym may sound a bit glib, we’ve found that it’s simple and memorable in a way that’s useful for organizations trying to develop better habits.

In this article we’ll describe a variety of BEANs that firms have used to unleash innovation, the characteristics that make them effective, and how your organization can develop and implement its own BEANs. But first we’ll briefly examine the behaviors that drive innovation and the barriers that thwart it.

About the Authors

Scott D. Anthony is a Senior Partner at Innosight and former Managing Partner. Based in the firm’s Singapore offices, he has led Innosight’s Asian-Pacific expansion.


Rahul Nair works as a Manager at Innosight. As part of the team, he has worked on engagements with companies in the healthcare industries to design and implement innovative new growth strategies.

Paul Cobban is the Chief Data and Transformation Officer at DBS, Southeast Asia’s biggest bank. It was named Worlds Best Bank by Euromoney.


Natalie Painchaud is a Director at Innosight and an experienced strategy and innovation consultant and coach. She has more than 15 years of experience in helping Fortune 500 companies to successfully innovate.

Author Videos

Scott Anthony on BEANs and Barriers to Innovation

Natalie Painchaud on Organizational Inertia

Scott Anthony on how DBS uses BEANs