Nurturing Europe’s Spirit of Enterprise – Significant New Report on Innovation

by | Mar 22, 2012

Innovation is a prerequisite for corporate growth, but can it be achieved with Hangers-On?

To gauge the level of enterprising traits among European executives, and the supporting institutions in European countries, in the second quarter of 2011 Forbes Insights and Ipsos Observer conducted a survey of 1,245 business executives across Europe. Ninety-seven percent of the respondents came from six countries: Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Switzerland. One-fifth was C-suite, 13% heads of business units, directors or VPs, and the rest managers and department heads. They came from functions spanning the organization, with operations, sales, IT, finance and general management represented most prominently. In terms of industry sector, about one-fifth came from manufacturing, followed by the public sector with 15%, then IT, retail and financial services.

This study defines five personality types—Movers & Shakers, Controllers, Hangers-On, Star Pupils and Experimenters—and analyzes how, and if, they generate innovative ideas and implement them. Corporations need diversity, also in terms of personalities, but the right mix and their distribution across departments prove crucial for maintaining the innovative edge.

Key Findings as follows:

Ideas are easier than execution. Not everyone is good at generating ideas, but nobody hinders the process. With regard to execution, however, two personality types (Controllers and Movers & Shakers) and one role (corporate management) are obstacles to successful implementation of innovations.

•  Diversity helps. Personality traits that are valuable in the conception of ideas may be irrelevant, or even a hindrance, when it comes to implementation. Innovation and enterprise therefore benefit strongly from a diverse workforce.

•  Small may be more beautiful. When it comes to innovation, bigger is not better. Organizations with 100 to 249 employees were best at generating innovative ideas. Those with revenues between $5 million and $100 million were best at executing them. Turning an idea into a product or process requires a certain level of scale and internal resources. But at some point size begets bureaucracy, which can interfere with successful execution.

•  Resources matter. Innovation is not cheap, let alone free; and it is more often firms themselves, rather than external finance providers, that fail to allocate resources to it. If strategic plans do not allow for the resources to pursue serendipitous innovation, then they can stifle it altogether.

•  Corporate management can be an innovation killer. Senior managers’ failure to buy into innovations was cited by survey participants as the biggest reason that innovations fail.

•  Eyes on the big picture, line to the C-suite. The function most strongly connected with successful execution of innovation is the corporate strategy unit (as distinct from “corporate management” more generally). Few parts of a company have both the industry understanding and the bully pulpit available to corporate strategy.

•  Fear of death is a powerful incentive. The industry most likely to witness successful execution was media. More than most sectors, the media industry has undergone a near-death experience—an “innovate or die” situation—over the past 15 years.

•  Ideas from those without influence can lead to innovation without results. R&D is the unit most capable of generating new ideas. Yet it may lack the infuence, and perhaps the ability, to implement them.

•  Although most differences among countries are modest, they do exist. Polish respondents were most likely to say that they had championed an innovation. They were also more likely to say that they had succeeded in getting the innovation implemented. UK, German and Swiss executives were least likely to say that they had proposed an innovation.

Jeffrey Tobias

About Jeffrey Tobias

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well-known startups.

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Managing Director, The Strategy Group

Dr Tobias is an accomplished innovation consultant and entrepreneurship strategist, drawing expertise from the academic, entrepreneurial and corporate worlds. Jeffrey’s commercial and business experience is particularly focussed on lean startup, design thinking and leadership. Prior to The Strategy Group, Jeffrey was Cisco’s Global Lead for Innovation in the Internet Business Solutions Group helping Fortune Global 500 companies improve customer experience and grow revenue by transforming how they do business.
Jeffrey is a professor of innovation and entrepreneurship teaching MBA students at the Australian Graduate School of Business at the University of New South Wales. An active angel investor, Jeffrey is on the board of various well known startups. Jeffrey’s corporate background includes leading global innovation strategy at Cisco, working with large corporates such as Adobe, Westpac, Telstra, Woolworths, and Perpetual.

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