I came across a nice 2003 study by Dutch academics titled, “SME innovation and the crucial role of the entrepreneur.” The study’s purpose was to ask small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) what they viewed the most important factors in innovation to be. In this study, SMEs consist of 100 employees or less.
Rather than have the businesses come up with their own factors, the academics conducted an extensive survey into the prevailing studies on the matter. From this survey, they culled to the 14 most commonly mentioned bases for innovation.
They then asked 167 firms to answer 50 different questions, which resolved to the 14 factors. From these responses, they generated a statistically valid ranking of the what small businesses consider to be the most important drivers of innovation.
Before discussing these ranked factors, it’s interesting to note the academics’ take on this. They came up with a really rough ordering of the most important innovation factors, based on their frequency in research studies. They then compared the research studies to what the businesses themselves identified. It’s of interest to see the discrepancies.
The chart below shows how business ranked the 14 factors, along with their approximate frequency in research work:
The findings are useful, and perhaps not surprising. In a firm with under 100 employees, the entrepreneurial zeal of a founder certainly is a key driver of innovation. Unique product advantages make sense as the #2 factor – although perhaps that’s a bit confusing in that innovation produces the unique product advantages.
Innovation culture comes in for #3. This is important, and my guess is that if you were to survey growing sizes of firms, this factor would rise in the rankings.
Check out the full paper for details.
Hutch Carpenter is the Director of Marketing at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.