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UK companies failing to capitalise on innovation

frazer bennett | hr director | 26 April 2017 

This article was first published in HR Director

Two thirds (66 percent) of organisations say innovation is crucial to survival; yet only 28 percent say they are innovating successfully to drive growth and increase revenue, comment Frazer Bennett, Chief Innovation Officer at PA Consulting Group. 

Over three fifths (66 percent) of senior executives feel that UK CEOs are not leading from the front and lack the vision and passion necessary to make innovation happen. Only a quarter (24 percent) of UK organisations say their boards prioritise innovation. Two fifths (40 percent) of UK leaders reject disruptive ideas for fear of failure. Organisations are missing out on the potential of innovation to drive progress and profitability.

The new report from PA Consulting Group finds that organisations are struggling to innovate. Two thirds (66 percent) of organisations are convinced that innovation is crucial to their survival. Yet only 28 percent say they are innovating successfully to drive growth and increase revenue. Moreover, a mere 39 percent of executives are confident they have defined the skills they need to be innovative. At a time when some organisations are adopting a cautious posture in the face of global political and economic headwinds, investing in innovation is more important than ever. PA’s research on ‘innovation leaders’ – organisations realising a substantial increase in revenue and growth as a direct result of their innovation activity – makes clear that innovation not only helps organisations survive but thrive amidst uncertainty.

Innovation starts with leaders who recognise its importance and are willing to do something about it. Globally, 81 percent of the innovation leaders profiled in the report offer their employees an inspirational sense of purpose. Yet in the UK, over three fifths (66 percent) of senior executives feel that UK CEOs are not fully leading from the front and lack the vision and passion necessary to make innovation happen. 

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Innovation Matters: What are the 'innovation leaders' doing right?


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Learn from the leaders

Even with uphill challenges, the innovation leaders in our survey pointed to a clear pathway for achieving innovation success. Successful innovators are more likely to:  

Focus on the future – believe their organisation can deploy technology to meet customer needs (59 percent versus 49 percent of less successful peers) and excel at measuring the business case for innovation (57 percent versus 41 percent) 

Design for innovation – measure the value of innovation (61 percent versus 47 percent) and take new products and services to the market faster (61 percent versus 42 percent) 

Create an innovation culture – kill off ‘zombie’ projects earlier than their less successful peers (54 percent versus 40 percent) and reward employees for innovation (81 percent versus 69 percent) 

Build a network for innovation –source ideas for innovation from outside the organisation (61 percent versus 52 percent) and have executive and leadership teams with a diverse range of skills and professional backgrounds (78 percent versus 66 percent). 

As we face the uncertainties of a post Brexit world, it is frustrating to see that many companies not yet taking advantage of the opportunities that offer potential for growth. The good news is that there are clearly identifiable steps for success, a set of tried and tested behaviours which are consistently displayed by those organisations who do succeed at innovation.

We’ve found that innovation leaders design innovation into the heart of their business, use agile techniques right across their business, and are quicker to kill off ‘zombie’ projects. They have strong external networks and foster a culture that learns from innovation failures, as well as recognising success. We’re optimistic that organisations can address the innovation conundrum and get better at employing innovative practices. This will help companies all around the world set themselves up for future health.

Find out more about our work in Innovation.

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