Organisations struggle to see innovative ideas all the way through to commercial successes, while at the same time they are unable to kill off poorly performing initiatives according to the authors of the Harvey Nash 2019 Technology Survey.

And the bigger the company, the worse they are at innovation.

The authors of the study which surveyed over 2000 senior executives in 73 countries, say only one in 100 good innovative ideas make it to commercial success. Meanwhile, 37 per cent of organisations are ‘not very effective’ at stopping innovation projects when they are not working, creating a legacy of poorly performing projects.

The research refers to these as “innovation zombies” that divert time and effort away from the projects that could work. This dynamic has earned the word “innovation” a healthy dose of derision and skepticism.

The survey found there was no shortage of ideas, and  76 per cent of organisations said they are either ‘quite effective’ or ‘very effective’ at identifying innovative ideas.

From there slightly fewer progress – 67 per cent say they are effective at testing and improving the value of an idea. And when it comes to scaling up proven ideas, the success rates drop further – 61 per cent.

Linking those results together, there is a 31 per cent chance a great idea will be identified, tested and scaled up to at least a ‘quite effective’ degree.

According to the research smaller organisations are better at identifying new ideas and stopping unsuccessful projects than larger ones.

The Great Divide

The survey identified an emerging ‘dividing line’ in the tech team between those outward-looking roles driving innovation and customer engagement, and the inward-looking roles focused on operations.

When asked ‘how effective is the technology leadership team in creating an effective vision and strategy for your organisation?’ Less than one in five answered ‘very effective’ and one in three feel their leadership is ‘ineffective’.

“Given how important it is for the team to feel aligned to the strategy (all of our research tells us it’s one of the key motivating factors, alongside interesting work and money), this is clearly bad news for many tech leaders,” the report said.

Customer oriented, digital roles are most likely to feel positive about leadership, regardless of seniority.

When it comes to communicating vision, mid-sized and large companies perform worse than organisations with fewer than 100 employees.

“The critical component to the successful execution of enterprise wide innovation transformations is ensuring that the vision and strategy is communicated and understood pervasively throughout an organisation,” says Bridget Gray, the Managing Director of Harvey Nash Australia.

“This requires the organisation to have vocal leaders championing the vision at board and executive level, as well as employees seeded cross functionally across the business. Once you are in a situation where people, or departments feel excluded or not part of the vision, the chances of success significantly lower, and the essential collaborative efforts start to dissipate. Innovation can no longer be viewed as a separate activity, or one that an organisation dips in and out of, it must be part of the fabric and culture of the entire organisation.”

Gender balance & Immigration

The survey also examined attitudes towards gender diversity, concluding “while most people will declare support for better balance in gender, there is a significant minority of people who do not.”

The sector remains highly skewed towards men. A sizeable minority of respondents (22 per cent) do not feel it matters, and 29 per cent do not feel greater gender balance would improve the effectiveness of tech.

Turning to immigration and 71 per cent feel that immigration is critical to their country’s competitiveness, similar to the last two years. While the results have stayed mostly stable over the last three years – the UK is slightly less positive about migration, while the US, where the status of technology visas has been threatened by policy changes, have gotten more positive about the view.

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