Innovation is the process of creating new ideas, methodologies, services or products that lead to business transformation.

For many chief executives, innovation is a constant challenge, no matter where a business is located or its industry. Everyone is impacted by quickly evolving technologies.

With more than 27,000 business leaders around the globe among its membership, YPO regularly garners insights from these chief executives.

In coordination with YPO Innovation Week, the organization recently surveyed members about the impact of innovation within their businesses and industries — and the role leaders play in that transformational journey.

Of the more than 1,600 respondents to the YPO 2019 Global Pulse, it’s not surprising that most (57 percent) agreed an urgent need to innovate exists. However, more than one third (37 percent) shared that they are not likely to invest in innovation in the next 12 months. Commitment levels to innovation varies by industry, revenue and an appetite for risk.
Innovation Area Chart - YPO

Six Key Findings

While this survey was extensive and the data in the report is detailed, a few findings stand out.

  1. The main driver of innovation was reported to be customer experience, with nearly one in five respondents citing it ahead of products, data/business intelligence or technology.
  1. Chief executives are extremely likely to invest in customer-experience innovation over the next 12 months.
  1. Thirty-six percent of chief executives strongly agree that changing market conditions are disrupting their business, 24 percent strongly think their industry is being disrupted by technology and 20 percent strongly agree new competitors threaten their business.
  1. Over the next 12 months, chief executives are extremely likely to invest in innovation in the following areas: products (45 percent), internal processes (44 percent) and technology (42 percent).
  1. More than four in 10 chief executives strongly believe they have the appetite for experimentation and risk when they do business (this grows to 90 percent when factoring in those who ‘somewhat’ agree they have an appetite for experimentation and risk). Chief executives leading companies with annual revenues between USD25 million and USD99 million appear to be the most risk averse compared to those leading smaller businesses and those leading businesses with more than USD100 million in annual revenues.
  1. Nearly half of chief executives cited customers as their top source of innovation inspiration (48 percent) with employees (35 percent) ranking second and business colleagues third (27 percent). Consultants (10 percent) and think tanks (7 percent) lag far behind.
Customers are the most frequently cited source of innovation inspiration (48%) for CEOs, employees rank second (35%), and business colleagues third (27%). Consultants and think tanks lag far behind.

Regional differences

It was noted that in comparing responses from regions around the globe, there were some clear differences in how leaders think about innovation.

Regions Market Conditions Chart - YPO

Chief executives in emerging markets (Africa, Latin America and the Middle East) express an urgency to innovate, while those in Europe are more likely to proactively plan for it.

U.K. respondents (43 percent) were much more likely than their European peers (31 percent) to strongly agree that changing market conditions are redefining their business. Respondents in the Middle East/North Africa had the strongest agreement with this statement (51 percent), followed by Africa (44 percent).

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Chief executives in Latin America (19 percent) and Asia (14 percent) are more concerned that technology is making their business model obsolete, especially when compared to their peers in Europe (9 percent) and the United States (7 percent).

Chief executives in the Middle East/North Africa (10 percent) and Asia (9 percent) are more likely to strongly believe their competitors are innovating faster compared to the respondents across all regions (6 percent).

Industry differences

The data from the Global Pulse shows that industry plays a large role in defining chief executives’ approach to innovation.

Those responding with the highest urgency to innovate and highest likelihood to invest in innovation in the next 12 months are in service industries, including advertising/marketing and insurance, as well as more capital-intensive industries such as aerospace/defense and logistics.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, chief executives with the least urgency to innovate and invest in innovation in the next 12 months came from industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and utilities.

Chief executives in the media/publishing industry indicate high urgency to innovate with moderate likelihood of investment in innovation in the next 12 months.

Innovation Industry Chart_YPO

Read the full report

The 2019 YPO Global Pulse offers greater detail into what chief executives are thinking when it comes to innovation around the globe, what is top of mind for these leaders and what is likely to receive investment. Find the full report and supporting documents here: YPO Global Pulse.

Read our coverage of YPO’s Innovation Week 2019