Businesses struggling to execute, not innovate

Report from Cass Business School and VMware identifies the new challenges businesses face in turning great ideas into reality

An inability to turn ideas into new products, services and strategies, at the pace required, is putting organisations at risk of failure. That’s according to a new industry report from Cass Business School and VMware which explores the gap between where ideas originate and how they are executed within businesses across EMEA.

The report, entitled Innovating in the Exponential Economy, reveals the need for a culture of greater risk-taking and experimentation, but not ‘knee-jerk’ moves. Current incentives have led to a culture where ‘quick win’ initiatives are rewarded over more strategic ones – despite the greater potential benefit of the latter.

It also highlights that many business decisions are reversible and waiting on ideas to be fully developed before beginning to execute can be detrimental. The unpredictability and pace of change means organisations can’t wait for certainties before committing to new ideas. These ideas need to be flexible enough to change in the face of different priorities and threats – relying on experimenting and improvising, rather than fully developing an idea and then implementing it at scale.

Professor Feng Li, Head of Technology and Innovation Management at Cass Business School, the author of the report, said: “The shift to digital has forced organisations to think differently about how they are organised, how they bring ideas to the table and the way they deliver and measure these. The future is difficult to predict and many new ideas risk becoming obsolete before they are implemented. My research reveals that it is the combination of leadership, culture and technology that will turn great ideas into reality at the pace required.”

Other key takeaways from the report include:

  • Executing on great ideas requires critical timing – too early or too late in pursuing emerging opportunities can be equally damaging – and maintaining strategic focus to safe-guard against ‘shiny new toy’ type distractions
  • Changing behaviours require organisations to transform their strategies and goals in ways that are aligned with the underlying values and assumptions of employees, which exist largely at an unconscious level
  • For innovation to succeed, risk taking – and sometimes failure – is unavoidable. However, many traditional risk management systems are no longer fit for purpose. Simply measuring what is most tangible – such as that invested in innovations (money and time) or the outcomes of innovations (number of new products) – can restrict innovation. Measurement should be able to change with the strategy, to ensure ideas are not disregarded before they can deliver for the business

“A business plan in a digital world has to be adaptable to market and competitive decisions – sticking to it at all costs doesn’t usually end well,” says Joe Baguley, Chief Technology Officer, VMware EMEA. “Achieving solid business outcomes require innovative thinking and the ability to turn these ideas into action, often at speed. This is only possible with a culture of innovation, where people know how to contribute and how to deliver. And it is the technology platform, where apps can be developed, managed and run across any cloud, on any device, that is the means to this – providing the flex for experimentation, speed and delivery.”