I’m pretty sure that the authors of the recent PWC’s report on innovation wanted to paint a nice picture of the current state of corporate innovation. Having served 246 CEO’s from around the world with rather conventional (and, to my taste, softballish) questions, they conclude that “CEOs are now taking personal responsibility for directing and inspiring innovation.”
Indeed, the majority of the CEOs surveyed in the study sees innovation as a priority to their companies and regards it as equally important to operational effectiveness. Many of them consider themselves innovation leaders and visionaries as opposed to being simply “sponsors” of innovation programs. Better yet, the focus of corporate innovation activities is shifting from just product improvements to creating better business models. And I was almost elated when I read that the CEOs see strong business leadership and right culture as key ingredients for innovation success. Can it become any better, eh?
But this rosy picture has violently shattered in my face when I reached the last question of the survey: “Which of the following constraints is stopping you from being more innovative?” The three top answers to this question were: “Financial resources,” “Existing organization culture” and “Lack of talent.”
Wait a minute! Are the CEOs viewing these “constraints” as something that is completely out of their control, like a natural disaster or act of war? Is it not within the authority of a CEO to allocate enough financial resources to pursue innovation activities? Is it not the responsibility of a CEO to implement corporate policies fostering the culture of innovation? Is it not a CEO’s job to create conditions attracting and retaining innovative employees? Is that what it means to take personal responsibility for directing and inspiring innovation?
Over the past years, many CEOs have mastered the art of talking about innovation, delivering well-rounded answers to friendly questions in non-confrontational surveys and interviews. But a frighteningly large number of them still demonstrate what I call a “cloudy vision” of the very fundamentals of the innovation process. Too many CEOs take a hands-off approach to innovation management, proudly claiming instead that “in our company, innovation is everyone’s job.” And while talking non-stop about the culture of innovation, they neglect to introduce specific corporate policies encouraging and rewarding their employees’ innovation efforts.
I don’t count myself amount people claiming that innovation is “broken.” But I do believe that many problems of the modern corporate innovation process – and, definitely, the most serious of them – stem from the lackluster performance of people who are ultimately in charge of the innovation process: the CEOs. Yes, it’s nice having them learned innovation vocabulary; it’s time, however, for them to get into action.
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