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Only five per cent of UK businesses are ‘innovation leaders’


Businesses are confident in the strength of their innovation in the face of global challenges but only five per cent in UK are innovators, according to a new study.

Over three quarters of businesses polled in the Dell Technologies Innovation Index say that their business has a vibrant culture of innovation, but the research shows a clear ‘innovation gap’ between perception and realisation. 

Respondents were placed on an innovation maturity benchmark ranging from Innovation Leaders to Innovation Laggards to understand organisations’ innovation maturity globally. This reveals an innovation perception gap, as the results show, despite the optimistic view of innovative business cultures, only 18 per cent of organisations worldwide can be defined as Innovation Leaders and Adopters. In the UK, this figure is lower at only five per cent.

This is important, as Innovation Leaders and Adopters are 2.2X more likely to accelerate their innovation during a recession than Innovation Followers and Laggards (who are more likely to decelerate). The good news is that the Innovation Index is a snapshot in time, and organisations can improve by priming their people, processes and technology for innovation.

Organisations need help to develop an innovation culture where all ideas can make a difference and learning through failure is encouraged. Businesses recognise this and are confident in their ability to deliver: in the UK, 56 per cent believe that, in part, people join their company because they believe they’ll be empowered to innovate. Globally, this figure is over three quarters.

However, they need to ensure that they fix the innovation gap. In the UK, half of respondents believe people also leave their company because they haven’t been able to innovate as much as they hoped. At a global level, this figure is 59 per cent. And in the UK, many (63 per cent) respondents say aspects of their company’s culture hold them back from being as innovative as they want to / can be. Furthermore, of those respondents based in the UK, 68 per cent believe that their leaders are more inclined to favour their own ideas, which can hinder the development of an innovation-based culture within an organisation.

The report also gives businesses a guide on how they can course-correct these issues, highlighting the opportunities to innovate more and the barriers that impact innovation. For example, over half of respondents in the UK feel recognition by senior leaders would incentivise them to innovate more.

In addition to people-specific changes, businesses should also look at how they can improve their processes around innovation. For example, 74 per cent of UK respondents say their leaders are more focused on the day-to-day running of the business than innovation, with 59 per cent feeling that workload and a lack of time to innovate are hindering their teams’ abilities. The prime barrier to innovation for respondents’ teams is a lack of time to innovate, underscoring the importance of senior leaders modelling prioritisation. Without genuine, visible commitment at a leadership level, ambitious, skilled individuals can’t achieve their full potential in innovation.

Providing more structure around innovation can also lead to better outcomes. While by its nature, innovation may be seen as an organic, ad-hoc pursuit, 63 per cent of Innovation Leaders and Adopters say special, dedicated projects drive their innovation. Half of innovation leaders and adopters in the UK agree. Equally, 89 per cent of UK businesses classed as ‘innovation laggards and followers’ agree that they could automate more to free up band-with and enable teams to innovate more. Similarly, a significant number of respondents in the UK called for improvements to their organisation’s ideation stage of innovation.

“The Innovation Index illustrates that innovation is not a fun side project – it is one of the most defining attributes of a resilient, profitable business,” said Steve Young, senior vice president and general manager, Dell Technologies UK.

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