Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Innovation Perception Gap

In studies we've read about innovation initiatives, there's been a fairly significant trend. Every survey or study on innovation I've seen indicates that a very high percentage of respondents indicates that innovation is very important for their business. This result is true across studies and surveys from Arthur D Little, Bain and several other consulting firms.

We conducted a smaller, probably less "statistically significant" survey of our Outlook Add-In users recently, and also asked questions about innovation. Our results confirmed what we've seen in other studies - most firms are very aware of innovation as a differentiator and growth engine for revenue and profits, and many firms are beginning to turn their attention to innovation.

In our survey, over 90% of the respondents felt that innovation was important in their industry, and over 85% of the respondents indicated that their management team emphasized innovation. Over 66% of those responding said that there is a current innovation initiative within their organization.

The perception gap occurs when we begin to dig a bit deeper to understand what's actually happening in these firms. When we asked about actual cultural and process changes, the numbers drop significantly. We asked in the survey whether or not the firm had specific metrics tied to innovation. Of those that responded, only 38% indicated their firm had metrics tied to innovation. In addition, only 25% indicated that their firm had standard processes and systems to support innovation.

Again, these findings are consistent with other surveys, and indicate that innovation as a business initiative is just in its infancy. Innovation has a perception gap - the gap between what managers are saying and the changes they've implemented to reinforce innovation. This same gap appeared early in the emphasis to become "closer to customers" as CRM began to penetrate large organizations, and as Six Sigma and quality became a significant corporate initiative.

Generally speaking, management teams start talking and emphasizing these initiatives long before the systems, processes and metrics are put into place. The real measurement over time will be to evaluate how many firms design and build systems and processes to speed innovation, and establish and report innovation metrics.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:57 AM

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