Sources of Innovation to Change, CEOs Say

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The saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” has been around with us for a while, yet it appears that CEOs are just now catching on to that fact. According to the recently released IBM Global CEO Study 2006, which involved face-to-face interviews with 765 chief executives and other business leaders at small, medium and large companies, more than three-fourths of respondents said customer collaborations and business partners would be two of the top three wellsprings of innovation for their organization.


The subjects of this research reported that the proliferation of new players in the market and ever-increasing globalization of the economy had changed the competitive landscape drastically. Thus, nearly two-thirds of CEOs are planning revolutionary changes in operations, especially in how their companies innovate. This trend is largely anticipatory: Close to the same number of them—61 percent—said they were concerned their competitors would make similar moves, and thus alter the terrain of their industries significantly. Interestingly, they’re also worried about their ability to steer the ship on the correct course. Only a fifth of them said they had successfully implemented a similar change before.


Of course, the main source of innovation would still be internal: Forty-one percent of CEOs said their employees’ contributions would be a significant source of new, revenue-generating ideas, making it the most popular response. However, it’s not clear where exactly these ideas will come from. Only 14 percent of respondents indicated that these would originate in research and development departments, making that eighth on the list of innovation sources.


What are the implications of this trend for IT? Well, it probably means that those responsible for developing and rolling out new hardware, software, systems and so forth will have to listen to and consider the requests and demands of customers and affiliated organizations quite a bit more. No more running a new solution up the flagpole and seeing who salutes. This is yet another example of why IT professionals will need to develop and improve on more non-technical capabilities such as communication and conflict resolution to compete in the job market. Still, they can’t afford to neglect their technical proficiency as they advance their soft skills. As the complete quote at the beginning of this article states (as articulated by U.S. inventor Beulah Louise Henry), “If necessity is the mother of invention, then resourcefulness is the father.”

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