Do CEOs Have Innovation Fatigue?

The latest BW/BCG survey of top execs around the world shows that a distinct
Bruce Nussbaum

The latest BW/BCG survey of top execs around the world shows that a distinct "innovation fatigue" is setting in. In 2006, 32% of top execs said innovation was the top priority but only 27% said it was their top concern in 07. Why? Last year, 52% of survey respondents said they were satisfied with their return on innovation spending. In 07, only 46% were satisfied.

But what's behind the declining satisfaction? My sense is that the "quick-fix," "get me an iPod!" CEOs and managers suddenly realized this year that innovation is neither simple nor fast. You can't just bring in the clowns, shake up the people and turn into a Nike or Apple. You won't find innovation fatigue at these companies, or at IBM, GE, P&G, Bank of America, Philips, Google, Sumsung, Electrolux and dozens of companies around the world.

Innovation is about changing culture and organization and that takes patience, time and fortitude. Top execs tiring of innovation and turning back to squeezing more efficiency out of operations are playing a short-term, losing game that their Asian competitors are better placed to win.

Clayton Christensen's book "The Innovator's Dilemma" will be ten years old in a month. Think about that and how far we have yet to go to build innovative businesses and design better educational systems, courts and political systems. It is still a nightmare to vote in the 21st century.

Innovation fatigue? Only for the weak and short-sighted.

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