So what is holding innovation back? A new GE report

GE Global Innovation Barometer 2014I always look forward to the GE Global Barometer and the 2014 report is no exception, actually it really has moved the needle on what is presently holding innovation back. The Barometer has explored the actions or constraints that senior business executives are worrying over in their pursuit of innovation.

The fieldwork was undertaken in April and May, 2014 and covered 3,200 phone interviews to people directly involved in the innovation strategy or process. It covered 26 countries and was conducted by Edelman Berland on GE’s behalf.

The supporting website provides the GE view of how this report reflects and provides an overview, an interactive, resources and key point headings sections to explore.

I  personally think GE have actually been a little too low-key on this report and frankly far too conservative on the potential takeaways in reading their ‘take’ in the overview. It has significant implications for our organizations to grapple with but each is certainly not alone, it is a collective need to move innovation forward or you place much at risk if you don’t find solutions to the issues raised in this report.

This year the Barometer broke out of its past and steamed ahead.

The GE Barometer report for 2014 does seem to have broadened out its assessment on innovation, in my opinion, into a more comprehensive one around three aspects: 1) What are today’s drivers and barriers, 2) what are the trends, practices, myths and realities and 3) the country and public policy issues to tackle for supporting innovation.

There are two reports, one is a summary that can stand alone to quickly grasp the issues but does not really do the real justice that the full report provides in 68-odd slides. I’d recommend you explore both.

So what do I  have as my takeaways from this GE Barometer 2014?

I have summarized thirteen points that make some more than helpful insight into what is holding innovation back. In some ways by not cracking some of these it will kill off some businesses and this increased anxiety and fear I sense runs through many presently engaged in innovation, it is these that ‘reveals’ these tension points within this report. Take a read and see if you agree?

These are my thoughts summarized in these thirteen points gathered from the report:

1. Inequality, caused increasingly by technological innovation, will have a growing impact and fears on the ability to innovate, if innovation within countries or regions is not recognized as a real wealth creator or destroyer and its enablers are not effectively put into place and leveraged. The ability to resolve this or not, will have significant impacts on the lives and country positions within the global race for innovating competitiveness.

2. It is interesting to see a fairly equal view on the challenges being presented by a technological shift is either a revolution (52% think so) or an evolution (42%) and it does seem a number of emerging countries are rising to the challenge. Whereas the established ones might be less caught up in this, seeing this as part and parcel of radical changes going on. I think there seems an underlying complacency in some, a determination in others to shift the dynamics of how their country is seen and invested in.

3. The effect of this multifaceted change going on where greater collaboration convergence of technologies, the place of Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) seems to be leaving many of our organizations ill-prepared to embrace these.

4. External collaboration is a confirmed reality, the world over and it seems most organizations have passed through the downsides and see open collaborations as “risks worth taking” to innovate successfully today.

5. Big Data seems to be dominating many people’s minds today. 94% accept the reality of Big Data as something here to stay but the fears; constraints and impact, are far from worked through. Naturally you would understand this as Big Data is very emerging in its redefined concept but you gain a really clear sense of significant resistance to focus on this and how organizations are (totally) lacking in their abilities to capitalize on this. Some are actually “dreading the challenges and impact” it will have.

6. The Internet of Things (IoT) is seen to likely have a positive impact on jobs but 44% of those surveyed surprisingly had not heard of the “Industrial Internet” notion when asked. As this is a ‘GE-speak’ view of the more popular IoT it might not be a surprise as I can’t believe these level would not have heard or thought about IoT surely? There are clear ‘lead and laggards’ in different industries, with many indicating they are “not quite prepared” or “not at all prepared” for what this means on their business. (OMG!)

7. There is a review of how the global game of innovation is being played out with the balance required to localise the needs. ‘Glocal’ still resounds for many but I think this catch phrase might be not reflecting the true inability to tap into specific market needs and from this, local innovation might be significantly constrained. Like to understand this more to see if I might be right here, I think so.

8. The focal point of GE’s press release was entitled “Disruption Ready” yet there seems a huge anxiety here. The difficulties of changing mind sets, behaviours and processes is potentially going to “kill the business” is suggested, unless the ability to quickly adapt and implement emerging technologies is not undertaken. I think this needs a greater all-encompassing reflection as disruption itself is getting a lot of ‘airing’ at the moment. In this report 72% state they will protect their core business profitability and believe (mistakenly in my opinion) successful innovation (62% of responders) will come from planned innovation. Perhaps but not in the present way we structure innovation.

9. There is a strong continued worry over (a lack of) internal agility was acknowledged but the citing of “internal inertia” is seen as a critical challenge that can equally “kill their business” rings some real alarm bells for me.

10. Speed-to-market is split right down the middle. 50% believe getting to market as quickly as possible is key, 50% argue “not to rush” and take the time to perfect their innovation (another mistake in my opinion)

11. 60% of all interviewed still deem it difficult to define an effective business model and yet another seen challenge that is “killing the ability to innovate”. The scaling of innovation is equally seen as a concern and part of this real underlying Business Model issue. With all the progress on BM’s you would think organizations would be working this defining and experimenting with different BM’s well through? The understanding, concepts and frameworks are out there but the board room seems to be blind to embracing this. It will change that is for sure.

12. The area that seems more ‘ripe’ for engaging and collaborating is between public sector and private industry on working through the needs for innovation and laying in the right policies and frameworks. The growing recognition that SME’s are leading the recovery charge, the encouraging of more start-ups and attracting into the country the multinational is tough to get into the right balance. The public sector ‘reaction and responses’ lag more than lead and taking too much time to bring into place the factors for promoting innovation but within this report are some great slides on issues that can frame some healthy discussions and allow all the sides within the country innovation debates to engage and work out the evolving frameworks. I liked this section to help in this.

13. Lastly I liked the self-evaluation of each respondents view of their own countries innovation improvement or not, around that countries innovation framework. The developed countries are in need of waking up and listening, it seems.

My summary from the report.

So a rich report with lots of issues that do, it seems, need to be unlocked, unblocked and further uncovered to allow innovation to deepen and take hold. There are so many warning signals that I feel cannot be left much longer to tackle.

When you see “fear, anxiety, dread, killing our business, inertia, not prepared, not heard of, and killing the ability to innovate” it might raise one or two alarm bells somewhere.

Perhaps the alarm bells should be going off within the boardrooms, they need to start paying closer attention here, clearly they are still reluctant to understand and embrace innovation, they are not getting the multiple messages as it has far too many ‘disruptive forces’ to deal with but avoiding addressing these is far, far worse.

I think GE and their Barometer 2014 has some really helpful clues in not only what is “holding innovation back” but more in pointing up to “what needs to change” to allow innovation to really move forward. Please take some time to read it.

I would finally like to congratulate GE for investing in this initiative, it helps serve their global business by knowing more of what is the present thinking across many of their customers and across broad industries and public bodies they work with and it is proving thought leadership. It also allows us all to understand the issues surrounding innovation

I certainly do look forward to where they take their GE Barometer 2015 on innovation as they have raised numerous issues that can be further followed up just from this 2014 report alone.

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3 thoughts on “So what is holding innovation back? A new GE report

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