GE Global Innovation Survey – Leaders Feeling Effects of Innovation Vertigo

GE Global Innovation Survey - Leaders Feeling Effects of Innovation Vertigo  Leaders Feeling Effects of Innovation Vertigo says GE Innovation Survey

GE have just released their latest Global Innovation Barometer survey and they are strongly detecting “Innovation Vertigo” from the survey conducted through more than 3,000 senior business executives in 25 countries.

This ‘dizziness’ for many is being caused by a growing unease with the continuing changing dynamics of today’s business landscape and uncertainty over the path forward. This is forcing leaders to think differently about how they will achieve growth. The good news though is it does seems that many are beginning to embrace this complexity by exploring new and sometimes unexpected opportunities to innovate.

According to Beth Comstock, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GE, “leaders are betting big on more unconventional approaches to innovation to unlock growth”. It seems GE are trying to stay ahead of the pack in unlocking innovation by exploring different markets, partnership structures and business models. Big data is accelerating up the inside as we have seen both GE and P&G, placing increasing emphasis on this, as a potential source of innovation insight they feel is presently missing.

The most important point comes back to these tensions or vertigo being felt, that are showing through in this report,between the desire for globalization and protectionist temptations organizations sometimes tend to favour. It seems as our leaders are being pushed outside their comfort zones they are having this uneasiness with the pace of change and confusion over the best path forward.  I’d hazard a guess  on what they feel as ‘vertigo’ does go beyond the usual symptoms of light-headedness and dizziness and is possibly far more: that of a chronic lack of solutions beginning to creep into their  psyche as their worlds are spinning out of their control, to stay managing in the ways they have been. Perhaps welcome to our world Mr Leader.

As many of them will be gathering in Davos, Switzerland between 23rd to 27th January 2013 (http://tinyurl.com/afde4w5) I think the higher than usual altitude, will not help their brains or nervous systems as the whole economic system is still out of balance, so having “Innovation Vertigo” is part of a bigger malaise I would expect.

Still, here are the top line summary points of the report

The protectionist debate

There seems a growing undercurrent of wanting protectionism but making sure it works in their favor. This could be trying to get Governments to prioritize promotion of domestic innovation rather than imported but many others continue to feel markets need to be opened even more to promote the imported innovation and attract the (domestic) investment that goes with this, or should.

A growing number of leaders see growing challenges for innovation within local economies, believing that the increased competition and accelerated pace of technological advancement has a negative impact. So this is a growing set of policy paradoxes, leaders want clearer decisions through local governments to determine this and bring it under control.

The wish to go beyond just product innovation

There is also a growing recognition that incremental innovation is simply just not enough as organizations are suffering from this lack of growth momentum, causing much of the “vertigo”. Business model innovation is becoming more and more the solution with a growing view that a new business model may offer businesses a less risky and resource-intense path to reach customers over the current ‘traditional’ methods.

I read an awful lot into this but top of mind does come the word ‘naivety’ and a chose this word due to its definition: “being naive is often lacking developed powers of reasoning and criticism.” They might look far more at the “within” and come down from their often lofty heights and recognize they are often the ones that inhibit and constrain the existing structures to perform in so many ways, far too many to start and outline here.

I welcome new business models of course, I teach the methodologies associated with them, so they are needed but are these organizations equipped to design, construct and execute new business models?  Also what happens to all the resource-intense ones, do they continue, only to wither and die as new ones are pushed by their own leaders?

No, this might be fanciful but it needs a far more robust debate and thinking through.  Of course focusing on the right forces for growth mentioned to master innovation is the real need for innovating successfully, business needs to master customer and market insights, talent and technology development.

Grasping new business models alone does not change that inherent weakness seen today in existing organizations. Theory and desire might be one thing, reality and sunken investment might be another -  maybe more vertigo then?

Collaborations continue to feature

According to the report, it is the belief that collaboration between businesses is emerging as a means to surpass competitors, enabling faster access to new technologies and markets particularly in emerging markets. Yet despite global acknowledgement of partnership’s power, concerns over revenue sharing, IP protection, trust and talent poaching pose barriers to action. Germany, China, Brazil and Sweden seem to have the most experience at partnerships.

It does seem collaborative innovation has plenty of global appeal as a key to business success, and momentum are accelerating in developing markets and seemingly slowing down in developed ones. The reasons for collaborations are given as access to new technologies, access to new markets; improve existing product and service and speed up time to market. The downsides are a lack of trust and policy protection underpins much of the anxiety over business collaboration and the continuing “old chestnut” of IP protection, which all fit with developing country lag issues on legislation protection.

Government as stewards of the innovation environment

This one also gets me intrigued – stewards – umm. We are in such a “fog” from lack of dynamic leadership at government level, partly due to the complexity and tangled knots we have got ourselves into but also the underwhelming mandate delivered at the ballot box leaves the politics of politics in stalemate. I always get the sneaky feeling business leaders keep pushing government to lead and make policy and then scream and shout, another vertigo moment, if they don’t like the decisions that go with this.

Of course policy environments affecting innovation are caught up in this and the usual call to safeguard business interests adds to the tensions. Business worries over the lack of talent, of loss of knowledge, in IP issues and fear bureaucracy (besides their own) and over regulation (beside their own again) but often we can’t see our business leaders heading the charge to hang onto talent already in place, reduce the knowledge we all have by insisting on many brain-numbing daily activities, called specialization and filling in information called for by the “system” etc.

Our business leaders want to see “a stronger entrepreneurial culture in the education system through stronger linkages between students and business savvy individuals” but sitting on their hands and wallets until this comes through any changed education system does not solve our immediate and next ten years of problems -  does it? I suspect more vertigo moments for them.

Lastly, guess what, talent is not in the right place

Leaders want to have access to the creativity and technical prowess within their workforce but the lack of preparedness and access to this ‘talent’ is holding them back in “unlocking innovation”. I find it hard here to not become a little cynical on this. Matching jobs and people is hard, no doubt and lining up the right skills to meet the economic needs required today is correct but if all the millions of messages of caution in the past about investing in people, in nurturing what you have, holding onto what you have in experienced people, instead of simply letting them go, many on early retirement packages or just leaving out of continued frustration, I do have a hard time on their concerns. They made the bed……..

Perhaps another symptom of “Innovation Vertigo” is “Innovation knee-jerking”, turning it off and on for the short-term needs and abandoning the notion of continuous, sustained investment in the skills, along with developing the experience base through challenging environments and leading edge investments. Well at least if new business models come into serious ‘play’ then the skills, experience base and challenging environments will all equally be in ‘play’ but not in the controlled ways they would want to see but at the edges of much discomfort for some white knuckle rides.

Thanks GE for providing this, it is certainly helpful to see inside leaders minds.

I enjoy the GE Global Innovation Barometers they often do raise the blood pressure and that of course is a certain tell, tell sign that I might be suffering “Innovation Vertigo” as well. Can I go to Davos as well, please? I do live in the country but more at  solid ground(ed) level, I’d like to be a little light-headed above the clouds.

Report and different comments: http://www.ideaslaboratory.com/projects/innovation-barometer-2013/

The report is also at http://www.ge.com/sites/default/files/Innovation_Overview.pdf

image credit: ge.com

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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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11 Responses to GE Global Innovation Survey – Leaders Feeling Effects of Innovation Vertigo

  1. Good article, Paul! Thanks! Lots of food for thought. I am going to read this three times.

  2. Hi Mitch,

    Reading it three times might be another symptom of vertigo – our “dear” leaders just simply do not get innovation in all its value do they?

  3. Carlos Zwikker says:

    Paul,
    Great article! But the evidence of leadership and especially middle management unable to adapt to change and unable to embrace innovation and new business creation has been present for a very long time! And so this just sounds very much like a scratched record. Will it ever evolve from where we are now?

  4. Thanks for the article. It confirms the need for continuous innovation.
    Indeed we need , and I quote Paul here: ” continuous, sustained investment in the skills, along with developing the experience base through challenging environments and leading edge investments.” Essentially this also comes down to the organization of a ‘readiness to innovation’ in companies. For sure this is all about leadership. To be more specific Inspirational leadership is required and fortunately this skill can be learned.

  5. Hugh Gillanders says:

    Paul,

    As always I enjoy reading your take on innovation and the innovation barometer – you always throw up some great and provocative angles on bthe information.

    Thanks

    Hugh

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  9. Diana Davidson says:

    Thank you for sharing Paul.
    As a change agent myself, I believe it’s vital that tomorrows leaders invest in ‘rising star’ propositions and continuous employee development to maintain commercial advantage.
    Steering a well worn course promoting ‘dog’ and ‘cow’ propositions alone with zero R&D no longer cuts the mustard within increasingly globalised markets that continuously evolve.
    As they observed during the 2nd century BC, ‘Fortune Favours the brave’……..

  10. Pingback: What’s the ideal innovation organization? | The Innovation and Strategy Blog

  11. Pingback: Innovation Excellence | Innovation Quotes of the Week – Jan. 20, 2013

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