Setting a baseline for strategic innovation capabilities

By James Janega

Much has been written about how to improve the capacity for innovation in companies, but little universal information exists to help executives make informed decisions about how to improve performance.

In short: Interest in innovation is high, understanding about innovation is limited, and the need for it is growing.

I invite you to take five minutes to add to the knowledge base through the survey below.

Here’s why it’s important.

As authors Jonathan Low, Pamela Kalafut and Pam Cohen Kalafut note in their book “Invisible Advantage: How Intangibles are Driving Business Performance“:

1) Competitive advantage is increasingly temporary
2) Innovative culture is the most sustainable source of competitive advantage, and
3) Each organization must find its own path to unlock innovation culture

These takeaways echo what I hear from executives, from my Slalom colleagues and from our clients. It underpins most of our innovation consulting work.

Numbers underscore the need. Research by BCG, McKinsey, PwC and others show “innovation” has become an increasingly important tool in the executive arsenal. Executives and researchers may define it in many different ways, but the trend is unmistakable:

Innovation is a top-three strategic priority for 79% of CEOs (BCG, 2015). Executives want to grow their core businesses (41%), build into adjacent markets (32%), grow outside their core markets (16%), or already are in the early stages of commercializing innovative businesses in new markets (9%) (McKinsey, 2010). At a more granular level, new products, technology platforms and customer experience improvements are crucial targets (PwC, 2013).

Company leaders thinking about the problem believe culture, leadership, and willingness to take risks are top ingredients for success — but little definitive information exists about how to develop those end-to-end capabilities.

Inadequate devotion of resources, existing organizational culture and lack of native talent are flagged as obstacles to growth through innovation (PwC, 2013). (Part of it may be that very few understand how to appropriately link ROI metrics to innovation activities.) But very few employ the full range of tactics that can yield innovation growth.

Finally, no more than half of respondents — representing thousands of executives — feel they are any good at the processes and tactics that yield repeatable innovation (McKinsey, 2010).

Let’s change that. I’ll report the results of the survey here as a reasonable amount comes in.

James Janega leads the Innovation & Insights group at Slalom Chicago. He is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Illinois’ EnterpriseWorks accelerator, a member of the Chicago Ideas Co-Op, and helps enterprise companies and startups improve the way they think about innovation strategy, customer validation, building more robust innovation capabilities and processes. You can reach him at @JamesJanega on Twitter.

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