Companies see significant room for improvement in their ability to innovate, EIU report shows
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Jan 20, 2015 - 1:13 AM

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  • Newly released report finds that creating new products and services is among the top three priorities for 54% of multinationals surveyed
  • However, only 20% of respondents think their firms are “excellent” at innovating, and 13% say their companies are “poor” or “very poor” in this key area
  • Corporate respondents identify an innovation-friendly corporate culture as the most important factor in promoting innovation
  • The main barriers to innovation identified are absence of strong leadership focus; weak skills in generating ideas; insufficient communication and collaboration across organisational lines; and low confidence in sharing ideas company-wide

A newly released report from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) finds that companies are investing more in fostering innovation, but are nonetheless missing key elements of an effective strategy to promote innovation. Over the last three years, 71% of the 350 companies surveyed increased investment in innovation, and 76% plan to do so over the next three years.

The innovative company: How multinationals unleash their creative potential, sponsored by EF Education First, identifies corporate culture as the most important factor in promoting innovation. An innovation-friendly corporate culture is seen as one that encourages new ideas from everyone, allows for failure and features strong leadership favouring innovation.

The research also finds that, although innovation often takes place at the intersections of geographic and departmental lines, confidence in the ability to express one’s ideas tends to fall steadily when individuals encounter organisational boundaries.

A separate survey of public officials responsible for designing and implementing adult education and training policy shows significant divergences in corporate and government views concerning innovation-related training. Government respondents tend to have a more positive view than corporate ones do of the contribution that adult education makes to corporate innovative capacity. And government respondents are much more likely than corporate ones to see innovation-related training as the sole responsibility of business.

The innovative company: How multinationals unleash their creative potential, is available free of charge here.

Simon Hill is CEO of Wazoku, a UK innovation management firm that works with Aviva, Capita, BBC, NHS to capture innovations and ideas from employees. Based on his company’s growth, he knows that global innovation is on the increase and organisations are increasingly willing to invest in the right tools to make innovation work.

“Successful global innovation requires letting everyone in the organisation know there is a dedicated place to submit ideas. This means management buy-in at a global and national level. It’s encouraging that this research showed a willingness for organisations to increase their investment in innovation, but it’s got to be in the right areas. Employees need to know there is somewhere for them to discuss and develop ideas, but also that those ideas are going to be read by those at the top. Anyone within a business can have a strong idea that can make a difference, but our experience has shown that people are slow to engage unless they are sure that their ideas will be taken seriously.”

Insurance firm Aviva is using Wazoku to power its Customer Cup, a global tournament that looks to find the most innovative and customer-orientated ideas from its 33,000 employees. Teams from 16 different countries compete to submit ideas to improve the Aviva customer experience and can even submit ideas in their native language.

“Capturing ideas on such a global scale requires the right tools for the job and Aviva’s employees have the right platform to easily submit ideas and collaborate with each other across countries,” continued Simon Hill. “We’ve found the last 12 months in particular have seen a real growth in organisations investing in global innovation. Aviva and others are alive to the importance of innovation and are prepared to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to making it happen.”

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