Innovative companies don't fear failure

2012

The world's most innovative companies welcome and harness failure to help them devise more successful ideas. That's according to a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit examining what it is that characterises the most innovative companies.

Cultivating business-led innovation found that innovative companies actively gather feedback and ideas from everywhere they can. Fifty-four percent of the top innovators we surveyed said they pour over customer comments – be they positive or negative - and scrutinise customer data for clues to effective future innovations. They recognise that collecting many ideas is the first step to identifying the great ones.

Yet almost half the respondents to the survey said that their companies have no system in place that helps them learn from failures. Moreover, many companies are not effectively capitalising on internal resources that might foster innovation.

One reason for this, the report argues, is that creating openness is a major challenge for many companies, especially larger firms, which are more likely to silo their innovation than smaller firms.

IT departments, in particular, tend to be underutilised, the EIU found. Half of survey respondents said the primary responsibility of their IT department is to implement innovations. Yet the as the report points out, IT has the potential to generate innovations of its own, educate staff about key new technologies and scout for innovators inside the company.

This is particularly important because the areas which appear to offer the greatest opportunity for innovation are of disruptive new technologies, big data and social media. But executives said that a lack of knowledge of how best to leverage these technologies, plus security concerns, remain challenges – so much so that just 15 per cent of the executives surveyed said that they are given free rein to explore and embrace these technology trends.

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