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Innovation Roadblocks Plague Companies, but the Problem Has Little to Do With Ideas or Funding, Executives Say in Survey

The Biggest Challenge to Innovation -- the Key to Sustainable Growth -- Is the Process of Getting Ideas to Market, According to Innosight Research

LEXINGTON, MA -- (Marketwired) -- 07/09/14 -- Executives voice significant concerns about their companies' ability to innovate to meet the demands of the future -- and they say the problem is not a lack of good ideas or money, but figuring out how to put them to work. That's according to a new survey of 800 executives in 20 industries by strategy and innovation consulting firm Innosight.

Only 11% of executives said the biggest innovation challenge they face is developing ideas, and only 14% said it's money. The main bottlenecks are commercializing ideas (19.5%) and scaling them within the market (22%). The survey results underscore that innovation blockage is a critical problem: Eighty-five percent of executives agreed that their organization will need to transform itself -- i.e., change their core offering or business model -- in response to rapidly changing markets. Yet fewer than half (42%) said their company is prepared for transformation within a five- to 10-year timeframe.

"The ability to innovate reliably and repeatedly is critical to achieving sustainable growth. What we've found working with companies throughout the innovation lifecycle -- and it's consistent with the survey results -- is that they really struggle with the critical, do-or-die first phase when an idea must move from paper into the market," said Innosight Managing Partner Scott D. Anthony, author of The First Mile: A Launch Guide for Getting Great Ideas into the Market (Harvard Business Review Press, May 2014).

Companies Can Break the Bottleneck by Giving up on Certainty and Embracing Trial-and-Error

"How a company navigates the 'first mile' of innovation determines whether an idea takes off or fails, potentially taking the entire company with it," said Anthony. "Most businesses run on a principle of maximizing certainty and minimizing mistakes -- but that's debilitating during the first mile. The innovation process is rife with uncertainty, mistakes and failure. In reality, mistakes and failure are both necessary and invaluable in pointing the way toward success -- if you're properly prepared and know how to handle them."

He argues that most organizations are short on the right innovation skills and perspectives, including a willingness to experiment for its own sake; an ability to welcome and learn from the unexpected; and comfort with rapid course corrections. Most of today's top executives and managers don't have these skills because they have spent much of their careers in environments characterized by certainty and stability.

During innovation's first mile, leaders should, according to Anthony, favor action over analysis to avoid "analysis paralysis"; encourage smart risk taking and avoid penalizing failure; learn how and when to disengage from an idea (to avoid the plague of "zombie projects"); and accelerate and increase connections to external experts, customers and employees.

For more information on the survey findings and/or a conversation with Scott Anthony, please contact Katarina Wenk-Bodenmiller of Sommerfield Communications at 212-255-8386 or [email protected].

METHODOLOGY
Innosight surveyed 823 Strategy & Innovation subscribers online in January 2014 and fielded approximately 100 open-ended responses. Sixty percent of respondents were in senior management (with the largest category being CEO/Managing Director). Fully 53% were in strategy or general management roles, and 15% were in marketing or product development. Twenty-three percent of respondents worked in organizations with revenues exceeding US $1 billion, while 19% worked in organizations with revenues between $50 million and $1 billion. Respondents spanned more than 20 industries, including financials and insurance, health care, telecommunications, and consumer goods.

ABOUT SCOTT D. ANTHONY
Scott D. Anthony is the Managing Partner of Innosight. Based in the firm's Singapore office, he leads its expansion into the Asia-Pacific region as well as its venture capital activities (Innosight Ventures). He has worked with clients ranging from national governments to companies in industries as diverse as healthcare, telecommunications, consumer products and software. He is the author of The Little Black Book of Innovation (Harvard Business Review Press, January 2012) and The Silver Lining (Harvard Business Review Press, 2009). He is the co-author with Clayton Christensen of Seeing What's Next (Harvard Business Review Press, 2004), The Innovator's Guide to Growth (Harvard Business Review Press, 2008) and Building a Growth Factory (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012).

ABOUT INNOSIGHT
Innosight is a strategy and innovation consulting firm that helps organizations navigate disruptive change and manage strategic transformation. We work with enterprise leaders to identify new growth opportunities, accelerate innovation initiatives, and build capabilities. Innosight is based in Lexington, MA, with offices in Singapore and Lausanne, Switzerland. www.innosight.com.

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