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Are CEOs naive about innovation?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on October 7, 2005

A recent BCG survey shows a disquieting gap between CEOs and their top managers over the criticial issue of innovation. The full report, industry by industry, will be available on the I&D channel shortly but here’s a peak at some of the results.
1- Some 81% of CEOs believe innovation is a top priority for their companies while only 63% of lower-level execs share this view.
2- Some 76% of CEOs believe their companies foster a culture of innovation, but 51% of lower level execs and employees disagree.
3- Some 66% of CEOs say their senior management teams share a common view on managing innovation but only 53% of non-CEOs agree.
4- Some 56% of CEOs believe their companies have the right organization structure already in place to generate innovation. But 56% of lower-level people do not agree.

When it comes to innovation and creativity, who’s clueless here? It looks like many CEOs are naive when it comes to operationalizing innovation in their own companies. They’re not getting it and perhaps not providing the resources to develop it. And many managers many don’t understand how imporant innovation is as a strategic imperative. It appears that senior managers of most companies are out of alignment when it comes to innovation. Which is pretty much what Jeneanne Rae found out at her recent Peer Insight meeting of service company managers.

Reader Comments


October 7, 2005 7:44 PM

When it comes to innovation and creativity, every one is aware irrespective of whether he is a CEO or Senior Executive. But then, a CEO alone is not in a position to bring out the innovation without the help or cooperation of other managers. Managers, on their part, are unreliable about the impact of the innovation. They look at it as an experiment, an experiment of someone’s idea, idea of an individual which was sold to the CEO, and basically in their opinion the idea itself is generated by an individual or a group who are busy in generating some work for them and so the idea is formed to generate work.

If you call it strategy instead of innovation – try for instance – people tend to be less scared. Basically the innovation look at the things in a different perspective, in a completely different view and mostly the hidden agenda would be either to cut costs or to reduce staff or to totally eliminate one section.

But then, if you show them IBM or HP where innovation is the main reason for their development, they will shrug it off.

There are many organizations, not just managers, who will reject the idea of innovation stating that “innovation will not work here – the organization is different”

So we call it strategy.



October 7, 2005 8:40 PM

I wonder how many CEO's consider themselves to be creative and innovative, when in fact they're nothing of the sort. I can't help but be reminded of the book "The Battle of Brazil" (Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures) and imagine that there are battles just like that one waged everywhere day in and day out.


October 9, 2005 5:25 PM

Are CEO'S naive about innovation.
I disagree with many of your readers comments.
I worked in the 70's and 80's for a very large ladies clothing chain in Canada. Fairweathers.There were an average of 20 people going off to Paris and London at least twice a year, a half a dozen going to California also. Both directors of our chain came with us to the collections. New York was on the agenda for most of "us" the buyers, quarterly. The travell budget was huge. The sales & profit numbers that we generated was well understood by the industry. Incidentally we even had a French designer. Yes in the 70's for at least 20 years with a seperate store "Daniele Hechter" attached to ours.
Our CEO got it.
We innovated by the hour. The day you received your inventory thats the day you went and took more risks. And we were applauded for it!
We reached for the stars long before Apple decided to market grey boxes with style.

And we had massive inventory, blessed by the CEO to prove it! ( unlike consumer electronics.)


October 12, 2005 11:29 PM

I think the problem with this innovation disconnect is a lack of communication. CEOs need to inquire about the state of the creaitve environment in their own companies. They can conduct surveys, focus groups, etc of their own employees. It should not take an indpendent survey to reveal this information.

In the same vein, employees and senior managers need to keep CEOs and other executives informed on what is working and what is not.

If everyone is working on the same page changes in the corporate environment can occur.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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