Posted: Dec 1st, 2010

Below are the results from the survey conducted by Tuck Executive Education on “Barriers to Innovation”, with responses from nearly 200 executives. Also included are some observations of the data from Tuck faculty Vijay ("VG") Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, authors of the new book, The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge.

Most commonly cited barriers to innovation, ranked from 1-10, then the Mean.
1=Most Commonly Cited Barrier, with number of responses in each column.

Rank

Question

1

Performance metrics are aligned to core business

2

Conflicts with priorities in existing business

3

Bureaucratic red tape

4

Lack of "breakthrough" ideas

5

Lack of free cash to invest

6

Can't hire the right people

7

Quarterly earnings targets too unforgiving

8

Compensation packages too rigid

9

Rising executives see innovation as career risk

10

Lack of any ideas

Respondents were asked to rate how important innovation initiatives are at their institution, on a scale of 1-100, and this chart shows the average value among all respondents:

#

Answer

Main
Value

Max
Value

Average
Value

Responses

1

Innovation initiative

0

100

72.36

190

Observations of Data from VG and Chris:

The results of this survey below were not surprising to us; they indicated that the top three barriers to innovation are:

  1. Performance metrics are aligned to the core business, not innovation
  2. Conflicts with priorities in the core business
  3. Bureaucratic red tape

 

Notably not in the top three was “lack of ideas,” which scored the lowest of all possible responses. (Though lack of breakthrough ideas did score near the middle.)

Also noteworthy is the fact that lack of funding also finished only in the middle, even in this very difficult innovation period.

Most everyone said that innovation has high strategic importance at their organization. This data shows that companies don’t lack for great ideas, they struggle to execute them. They don’t struggle to start, they struggle to finish.

The reason? Innovation and ongoing operations are always and inevitably in conflict.

All of the top three responses show different forms of this same phenomenon: what seems good for innovation is bad for the core business, and vice versa.