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Connecting innovation to profit - Five insights from leading entrepreneurs - EY - United States

Eighty-two percent of the entrepreneurs strongly agreed that innovation was critical to the growth of their business. Yet half of the entrepreneurs said that setting formal priorities for innovation played no role in their strategic planning process.

We asked some of the world’s best entrepreneurs to share their views and insights on the importance of innovation on their company’s success. Results indicate that the ability to manage, organize, cultivate and nurture creative thinking is directly linked to growth and achievement.

The world’s best entrepreneurs all understand that innovation is the primary force that can catapult a company to market leadership and keep it ahead of its rivals. And they know how hard that can be. As a business grows, it’s too easy to snuff out the creative spark with a stifling layer of process and bureaucracy.

Five key questions for fast-growth companies

Companies that get these questions right will accelerate their journey to market leadership.

  1. How can you make innovation a targeted, strategic and funded priority?
  2. How well do you combine process and spontaneity?
  3. How do you innovate around product or service details and the big picture?
  4. How do you allow ideas to flower, while exploiting those with potential?
  5. How well do you innovate around how the business works, not just what it does?

Five insights: Lessons from the world’s best entrepreneurs

Don’t leave innovation out of strategy.
Innovation is the fuel that will power your fast-growth company on its journey to market leadership. But many businesses fail to set strategic priorities for innovation, or do this badly. Make innovation a boardroom issue.

Your power to integrate makes you unique — don’t lose it.
As your business grows, you need to keep the spirit of creativity alive. Bureaucratic thinking can kill innovation in a blink. It’s the leader’s responsibility to foster a creative culture.

Good ideas are too valuable to waste.
Game-changing ideas are like gold dust: hard to find and easy to lose. Your search for them, and your process for developing them, should be rigorously managed company-wide. Innovation needs to be organized.

Balance blue-sky and bottom line.
Fast-growth companies must connect creativity and profit. If you cannot turn your new ideas into products and services that contribute to the bottom line, your journey to market leadership will slow or stop. You need the right balance between blue-sky thinking and making money.

Rethink how the business works, not just what it does.
Entrepreneurs are often brilliant at thinking up new products and services. But to stay on your fast-growth path, you need to apply that same innovative zeal to how you run your business, not just what it does.

We analyzed and quantified the 263 responses in terms of three broad geographic areas to highlight regional differences between the Americas, Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa (EMEIA) and Asia Pacific. Questions focused on:

  • The importance of innovation
  • How to encourage innovation
  • The challenge of capitalizing on innovation
  • How governments might better support innovation


Today, more than ever, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in corporate America. What can your organization do to cultivate this spirit of innovation and retain “intrapreneurial” thinkers?


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