Innovation Management

View from the Top: Arcus Innovation Leaders Series 

How senior executives use innovation networks to shape their strategies.


Arcus research reveals that a company’s ability to innovate depends on its culture and how well its employees, customers, vendors, and other parties are integrated in a value chain of idea generation. The Arcus Innovation Series is based on indepth interviews with over 500 business leaders from companies like Unilever, Domtar, Siemens and Maple Leaf Foods.


Read the Arcus Innovation Leaders Report.


Innovation Management

Our research shows that over 60 percent of senior executives agree that innovation can be a key driver of corporate growth and superior performance. Most senior executives understand the value of innovation in optimizing business performance and accelerating change. But they are keen to move their organizational focus on product innovation to other areas such as distribution, business processes and corporate culture.


Arcus research also shows that senior executives would like to find ways to create processes that will help them strengthen a culture of innovation in their companies. Clearly, there is a gap in the desire to innovate and the means and infrastructure to foster a culture of innovation. What are the reasons for this gap between expectations and reality? The intent exists to drive change in these organizations- 88 percent- say innovation is among the top three priorities in their growth strategies.


Drivers of innovation


Senior executives say finding the right people is the key driver of innovation. Some 46 percent of them say that it’s important to find the right talent to lead innovation projects. However, managers do not share the same viewpoint. They are more likely to rate the right culture ahead of the right talent as a key driver of innovation.   Arcus believes that creating the right culture and finding the right people can have a dramatic impact on the results of innovation projects. Managers and C-Level executives broadly agree about processes, resources and the need for visible sponsorship of the process of innovation. Respondents to our survey of 360 C-Level executives and managers indicated that culture and talent are closely correlated with a superior performance on innovation.


Define the innovation agenda


Our research shows that there are three areas that could be explored to increase the probability of success in the area of innovation and to ensure it has a direct impact on a company’s financial performance. A first step is to define the innovation agenda. This requires a focused approach to integrate change driven by innovation into the strategic-planning process. The step will help the organization focus on using innovation as a means to realize superior business performance. Second, executives need to create a corporate culture that is built around innovation networks, communities that exist to exchange ideas and insights that can solve business problems quickly.


The approach can strengthen the value continuum- a more open culture that encourages cross-functional interactions. Finally, executives need to develop and deploy processes to capture ideas and ensure that they are put to work quickly and efficiently. These processes may include use of technologies to create communities of practice, where employees who have common goals interact as they strive towards those goals. The strategy often creates networks that generate a cycle of innovation.


Measure innovation


Our research confirms that only a third of senior executives have integrated innovation into their leadership agenda. The others say they have not taken a strategic approach to innovation or have not made it a top priority. Those that have integrated innovation say they have invested in managing the customer experience by collating consumer insights more often, measuring customer experiences, and communicating more frequently with employees about their expectations.


These indicators of innovation are part of financial and behavioral performance metrics that enable senior executives to measure the impact of growth strategies. One company required that at least 10 percent of its revenue come from products launched within the past five years. Another company created targets for top line growth from new products and services and also required a high share of ideas to come from external sources.


Address barriers


Our research indicates that middle managers can facilitate the innovation process or serve as bottlenecks to the open flow of ideas and knowledge in an innovation network. Often, there is a gap in the perceived value of an innovation initiative at the middle management level. The process is seen as just another initiative that will increase their workload and add to the complexity of their priorities. Senior executives with successful innovation strategies often emphasize the importance of ensuring a high level of participation and buy-in by middle management in the innovation process. A strategy that has worked well in some organizations is to take the network to middle managers and encourage an exchange of ideas and knowledge at the middle management level. A decentralized approach often improves the performance of innovation initiatives.


Please visit the Arcus Innovation Leaders Series section for additional insights on how business leaders use innovative approaches to shape their strategies.


Arcus Innovation Leaders Series


Globalive’s view on the Innovation Imperative: An interview with Mr. Anthony Lacavera, CEO, Globalive Communications Corp. Mr. Lacavera says its critical for companies to be prepared to grow in a profitable and sustainable way. Globalive’s strength has been low management turnover and a strong, cohesive and consistent strategy. The company’s drivers of success have been the right team and a consistent and disciplined approach. Read the interview.


Unilever’s view on the Innovation Imperative: An interview with Mr. Geoff Craig, VP & GM, Brand Building. Mr. Craig argues that leadership is about having a vision for innovation and creating a framework for action around the vision to allow partners and employees to pioneer new ways of working. Read the interview.


Domtar’s view on the Innovation Imperative: An interview with Mr. Andrew Tremblay, Business Development Manager, Domtar EarthChoice, Corporate Markets Canada, Domtar Corp. Mr. Tremblay says that in capital intensive businesses, innovation needs to be seen as a way to get better return on the capital employed. Read the interview.


Maple Leaf’s view on the Innovation Imperative: An interview with Ms. Kathryn Fitzwilliam, Corporate Vice President, Marketing Resources. Ms. Fitzwilliam says first and foremost you need to make sure that people understand and support a shared objective. Read the interview.