The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Corporate attempts at innovation are overwhelmingly dying on the vine

The lion’s share of corporate innovation projects are not making it to the market, according to a survey from Fahrenheit 212.

The innovation consulting firm asked 100 chief innovation officers from multinational corporations what percentage of their innovation projects make it to market. Forty-five percent of respondents said fewer than 10 percent of their projects did. Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said between 10 and 25 percent of their projects made it to market.

“This was a bit of an eye-opener for understanding the challenge that innovation practitioners have in actually getting initiatives and getting projects through their organization,” said Jon Crawford-Phillips, a partner at Fahrenheit 212.

Crawford-Phillips said for incremental innovations, the success rate should be about 60 to 70 percent. In the past five years, he’s seen an increase in corporations having an employee serve as a chief innovation officer, but just giving someone the title and asking that person to come up with ideas isn’t enough to guarantee a company innovates. The system for promoting innovation must be designed correctly.

“It’s not about producing great ideas or even taking good ideas to market. The primary value of the chief innovation officer is the connectivity between the company’s growth strategy and the decisions and focus of the senior leadership team and the translation of that into an innovation agenda,” Crawford-Phillips said.

Too often corporations don’t align potential innovations with their financial interests, which makes them unlikely to see through new plans.

“The more successful companies that we see are ones that approach innovation as a portfolio that they manage. There’s a strategic way in which they allocate resources to core innovation, and there’s clear metrics around the performance of core innovation and a clear understanding of the financial impact of that innovation on the company’s balance sheet,” Crawford-Phillips said.

The survey of 100 innovations officers also asked what company is the most innovative at the moment. Google was named most often, with 19 percent of the vote. Samsung received 8 percent and Apple 7 percent.