Navigating Innovation Roadblocks: Key Differences between Innovative & Non-Innovative Organizations

Research Summary: “Navigating Innovation Roadblocks: Key Differences between Innovative and Non-Innovative Organizations” By Cathleen Clerkin & Kristin Cullen-Lester, Center for Creative Leadership (2015)

Has Your Organization Attempted to Improve Innovation?

At Issue: “Innovate or die.” Despite numerous cautionary tales, such as those of Blockbuster, Kodak, and others, many organizations continue to struggle to innovate. Consensus exists that innovation is important; however, most organizations, even the innovative ones, report a persistent gap between employees’ and leaders’ desire for innovation and their ability to effectively implement innovative solutions. Organizations that are most effective at innovation share many common traits, and can serve as role models for their less innovative counterparts.

Research Objective(s): The researchers’ objectives were to understand, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the following aspects of innovation within organizations:

  1. The extent to which organizations struggle with innovation;
  2. Key differences between organizations that are effective and ineffective at innovation;
  3. Common roadblocks that hinder innovation within organizations; and
  4. Strategies by which business leaders can maximize the effectiveness of innovation initiatives within their organizations.

Scope: This study addresses innovation within for-profit organizations. It spans across geographies, industries, and seniority levels and work functions of organizational personnel.

Approach: The researchers conducted a voluntary online survey of 485 executives and employees, of varying seniority levels, from organizations around the globe. The researchers utilized qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze the survey response data, in addition to conducting secondary research in the form of a desktop review of available literature.

Findings: Organizations that are the most effective at innovation exhibit the following five key characteristics:

  1. Senior leadership actively encourages innovation: only nine percent of survey respondents from “highly innovative” companies cited organizational leadership as a roadblock to innovation, while 30 percent of respondents from non-innovative companies answered the same;
  2. Innovation is firmly embedded within the organizational culture: only eleven percent of respondents from “effective” organizations cited organizational culture as a roadblock to innovation, while more than half (56 percent) of respondents from “non-effective” organizations responded the same;
  3. The organization has a formal innovation strategy: 66 percent of respondents from innovative organizations indicated that their company takes a formal approach to innovation, while only 20 percent of respondents from non-innovative organizations said the same;
  4. The organization has a dedicated innovation budget: 90 percent of respondents from highly innovative organizations indicated that their company has a budget devoted to innovation, while only 58 percent of respondents from non-innovative organizations answered the same; and
  5. The organization has clear goals and direction: only 17 percent of respondents from innovative organizations cited “no clear organizational direction” as roadblock to innovation, while 39 percent of respondents from non-innovative organizations cited a lack of clear goals as a major obstacle to achieving innovation.

Notes: The full text of this study can be accessed here.

Keywords: innovation, organizational effectiveness, organizational leadership

Researcher Profile: Allie Grace Garnett is a professional researcher and freelance writer with a background in finance and entrepreneurship. A serial entrepreneur who has established numerous businesses, Ms. Garnett previously was a founding Principal of Nexos Resource Partners (NRP), an energy project finance firm in New York. Prior to co-founding NRP, Ms. Garnett provided financial advisory and fund raising services to institutional-scale energy funds with Sustainable Development Capital. Ms. Garnett served as the Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships for the start-up Rentricity, and additionally founded a nonprofit organization (YAVA) that encourages volunteerism among college students. Ms. Garnett holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from Northeastern University.