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Creating new products and services is among the top three priorities for more than half of multinationals in 2015. Yet, just one-fifth of them would consider themselves “excellent” at innovating.
While most respondents rate themselves and their firms “good” at innovating, 13% of respondents admitting that their companies are “poor” or “very poor” in this area, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest study.
As a result, companies are looking to change the way they innovate in 2015. Almost two in every three companies in China are looking to increase “slightly” their investment in innovation over the next three years, while almost a quarter are planning for “significant” increases.
More than half of all respondents agree that a “culture that encourages new ideas from everyone” is the most important factor to building more innovation. Also emerging as important were a “culture that allows for failure” and “strong leadership”, rated by 41% and 34% of the respondents respectively.
Respondents also cited a host of reasons that prevent them to work on creative ideas, the top one being a lack of time in their work-day to experiment on their own projects.
This was followed by their concerns about a lack of culture that encourages new ideas from employees, as well as one that allows for failure, pegged at 30% each.
More than half of multinational firms surveyed have a formal process in place to gather suggestions from staff, and 84% of all staff have made use of it in the last 12 months – led by the CEO at 95%.
A large majority (87%) of firms also agreed that cross-cultural collaboration produces innovative ideas. Yet employees’ skills in this were found lacking.
“Respondents feel confident about communicating ideas within their own teams and departments—that is, on safe ground, where ‘everyone speaks the same language’,” cited the study.
However, when it comes to innovation across teams, half of all respondents said that cultural differences made it harder to share ideas with colleagues, climbing to 66% among respondents in China.
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A related suggestion on the way forward was investment in staff’s communication skills, with more than half agreeing to its usefulness in their ability to innovate.
Adult education was also listed as a means to improve the innovation agenda. However, the study found to a gap in the provision of creativity-oriented training when compared with other types of adult education.
“In particular, respondents say that the training available to them to boost communication and creativity skills is not as good as it is for commercial and management skills.”
“These results suggest an area that companies can address when choosing among adult-education programmes to subsidise for their employees.”