Survey Says: Global Leaders Not Cultivating Innovation

 -  1/16/08

In today’s marketplace, change is inevitable.

In today’s marketplace, change is inevitable. The pace of business has increased dramatically due to globalization, consumer diversity and the availability of new technology. These factors require that leading organizations employ any and all advantages in order to stay ahead of the competition. Yet, innovation is one competitive advantage many organizations are not taking advantage of.

A recent study from Oliver Wyman’s Delta Executive Learning Center showed leaders that don’t actively work to establish a culture of innovation may find their organizations experiencing faltering growth in the marketplace. The study is part of Oliver Wyman’s Global Leadership Imperative series and resulted in a white paper titled “Building an Innovation Engine.”

Companies that excel at innovation have three traits in common, said Carole France, partner, Oliver Wyman’s Delta Executive Learning Center. They have leaders who create a climate for innovation, a culture where most, if not all, employees believe they play a role in innovation and a structure that supports idea generation and the execution of those ideas.

This structure can take on different forms based on the industry and the company, but France said it likely will include some mechanism for employees to talk across boundaries, functions or business units. The structure also will encourage conversation with outside partners and provide a way for management to filter ideas in a very transparent process, so everyone in the organization knows how ideas are put forth and how decisions are made on what ideas to develop.

France said many of today’s top companies aren’t actively promoting innovation among their senior leaders simply because it’s hard to do. Further, innovation may not immediately produce a tangible benefit, which bumps it down on the leader to-do list.

“It isn’t that you can do all one thing,” she explained. “You can’t just say let’s all get behind one structure. It’s a whole set of complex, interdependent elements, and our survey results indicate that you’ve got to do almost all of them at the same time. For example, you have to create a compelling vision. You have to create this climate. You have to create some sort of structure, and if you just do one of these, it’s going to be shortsighted and it’s probably not going to succeed. It takes a lot of focus, a lot of energy and a great deal of commitment without necessarily getting an immediate return.”

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