Convening innovative minds
To gain insight into this question of corporate disruption readiness, we embarked on a multi-part global study—The CEO imperative: disrupt or be disrupted—that would ultimately involve over 65 hours of survey interviews with 101 CEOs of Global 5000 companies.
To inform the survey content, we convened a virtual global panel of 15 chief innovation officers, academics and thought leaders on a crowdsourcing platform. Most of them hold, or have held, senior innovation positions with Global 1000 companies.
We asked the panelists to consider companies such as the ones above and their own professional experiences to address the question: What are the most important organizational attributes that enable a large global company to disrupt?
Given the immediate profitability pressures, legacy mindsets, established job functions and incumbent talent in most large companies, disruptive innovation is unlikely to impossible in business-as-usual circumstances. To enable a large company to escape this limiting framework, the panelists pointed to a number of attributes falling under the four major themes—leadership, culture, innovation practices and external awareness capabilities.
Innovation experts: models innovation culture, empowers and asks the right questions
The starting point of disruptive innovation is leadership that gives the rest of the organization the confidence to take risks and explore by advocating, celebrating and rewarding disruption efforts. Disruption initiatives should be prioritized by giving them senior executive sponsors and empowering teams to achieve disruption objectives independently. Most importantly, in the words of one panelist, leaders must “ask the right question, and identify the questions behind the question,” to steer the organization in building the right action plans.
CEOs: Leaders have trouble walking the talk
In our survey, CEOs assign the lowest leadership scores for setting an internal example of encouraging experimentation and risk taking. This “walking the talk” is most difficult because leaders live the tension between balancing revenues with innovation that will drive real change and achieve the right business outcomes.