The innovation disconnect

  • Fiona Grandi, Expert |

According to our 2019 Global CEO Outlook survey, while 84 percent of global CEOs say that they want their employees to feel empowered to innovate, only 56 percent say that their organization has a culture where those employees feel that they can “fail fast.” 

To me, failing fast is more about “learning fast.” In my experience, we expect innovation to happen much faster than it typically does. And the appetite for “failure” is small. Organizations need to embrace the mentality of agile design – conduct “pre-mortems” to punch holes in your ideas before you start. 

While this is standard practice for some organizations, most companies are still in the early stages of their innovation journey. However, as they become more sophisticated, they begin to invest more heavily in innovation.

This may be reflected in the fact that companies are shifting attention from incremental investments in innovation – looking to improve a customer experience or making incremental improvements to technologies - to more transformational approaches. 

To assess where you are in your innovation process, start by asking yourself, ‘what happens if an innovation program only solves a part of the issue?’

There is no single strategy that works across all horizons. In some instances, innovation happens quickly, and the learning curve is small. Other times, if an innovation program is on a more distant horizon, it may take longer to iterate and organizations must adapt to a different speed to market.

What is the best way to create a culture where learning fast is an option or even an imperative?

There are a number of issues that may affect a company’s ability to innovate, but culture may be the biggest and hardest to adapt. And culture starts at the top.

The role of the CEO in creating and reinforcing a culture of innovation cannot be overstated. In addition to governance, CEOs have to endorse the need for change. He or she needs to develop and promote innovation; it can’t be a buzzword.

What are the CEO’s personal metrics for success in innovation? And how are performance metrics tied to innovation incorporated into their goals? By aligning performance metrics to goals, you make it personal and more powerful.

Organizations that are successful at creating a culture of innovation often have a diverse leadership team. They understand the value of diversity of thought and different approaches and angles and perspectives. This enables you to drive change faster and avoid the innovation disconnect.

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