Clustre Innovation Survey
Executive Summary

In February 2017, Clustre conducted a short but revealing survey on the broad topic of innovation. More than 200 senior executives were invited to participate – this is a summary of the powerful insights they provided.

1. Who responded to our survey?

First, we want to thank the many people who contributed to this survey. Your support is much appreciated.

A broad and very interesting mix of people responded to our request for insights. Without exception, all were ‘C’ level executives and their specific responsibilities ranged from Information Technology to Operations, Finance and Strategic Business Planning. A broad range of senior management opinion is reflected in these responses…

2. How important is embracing Innovation to the future of your business?

The answer was instant and unequivocal: 70% of people consider it ‘Very Important’ and 30% went so far as to deem it a ‘Life or Death’ priority. Clearly, innovation is viewed as central and essential to the future of business.

3. Who – by job title – is chiefly responsible for driving innovation?

Here, we received an interesting cocktail of answers proving that responsibility for driving innovation – and the real power-base for buying into innovation – is widely spread among senior executives…

The CEO featured very strongly in 50% of the responses. It is perhaps significant that the single greatest champion of innovation comes not from the technology sector but from the most senior level of business leadership.

CTOs came a very close second and are very powerful advocates of innovation.

CIOs then followed quickly in the overall ranking of importance.

Perhaps most surprising of all, though, was the fact that ‘Heads of Innovation’ were considered to be only the fourth most influential stakeholders.

This may well reflect the fact that the manager nominally responsible for championing innovation is often not the ultimate decision-taker or budget-holder. And this brings one pretty fundamental issue into sharp focus…

Too many cooks really will spoil this broth. When no single person has a clear mandate to make change happen, it often becomes mired in confusion. By contrast, in organisations where innovation is pursued with real passion, there is invariably one dedicated individual driving it. Actively supported by other senior managers and adequately funded, this person becomes the powerful champion of change. Our message is clear: when you define the role and empower responsibility, you will deliver results.

4. What are the biggest obstacles to embracing and delivering innovation?

As expected, this question provoked a flood of fascinating and sometimes widely differing opinions. To do justice to this broad church of thinking and to capture all of the shared insights, we have used them to generate this word cloud:

5.How would you rank your organisation’s willingness to adopt emerging technologies?

Only 30% of people thought that their organisations were ‘Very Likely’ to adopt. That left 70% of people who considered the adoption of emerging technologies as ‘Likely’.

Although this is a fairly positive endorsement of emerging technologies, it is nowhere near as passionately enthusiastic as the ranking given to the importance of innovation (Question 2).

This contrast is revealing. It shows that innovation – ‘the implementation of new ideas, the creation of breakthrough products and the competitive improvement of existing services’ – is the ultimate goal for businesses.

However, it also exposes the Achille’s heel within senior management – a hesitancy amongst some to embrace the tools that will deliver change…

Concerns about technology selection, suitability and compatibility can create massive senior-level uncertainties. They often cloud decisions and seriously inhibit the adoption of innovation. In truth, though, this should not be a concern. Specialist innovation brokers – such as Clustre – are here to guide organisations through this complex and often perplexing process. Finding the right mix of emerging technology is not an issue – ignoring the need for it, certainly is!

6. What emerging technologies are you trialling – or at least seriously considering – right now?

Here again, the answers provided a revealing range of opinions. As you might expect, they spanned the spectrum of modern technology trends. To do justice to so many strands of opinion, we have again used them to generate a word cloud which illustrates ‘Robotics’, ‘AI’, ‘Big Data’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ as the hottest topics.

7. Which of the following technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on your business this year?

This question was designed to pinpoint the technologies that are having the greatest immediate impact on business. Shifting away from the slightly esoteric world of emerging technologies, we wanted to know precisely where technology is delivering value – here and now.

By giving people the freedom to tick multiple boxes, we obtained some really definitive feedback. When 80% of people share the same conviction about high-impact technologies, it is a hugely powerful endorsement…

8. What are the most valued sources of inspiration and insight on all matters related to innovation?

Interestingly, it is the omissions that make this question so revealing…

As expected, External Peers and Internal Colleagues featured strongly. Conferences and Exhibitions also ranked quite well in the listings. However, sources such as CIO magazine, the Financial Times, National Newspapers and Blogs/discussion groups barely get a mention. And, most surprisingly of all, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn don’t even feature in the response. It would appear that senior executives are extremely selective about their sources of inspiration – they have neither the time nor the inclination to indulge in social media.

9. To what type of organisations do you turn to find innovative solutions and services?

This question was of particular interest to the Clustre team. From the profusion (perhaps even confusion) of innovation service options, where do senior executives turn for trusted solutions providers?

Peer Recommendations and Internal Teams claimed poll position in the rankings. Accelerators, Systems Integrators and Analysts (such as Gartner) were also highly respected sources. Surprisingly, however, the popularity of Management Consultancies struggled down in seventh place.

This might well indicate a shift away from large traditional suppliers as executives seek out new innovation services and solutions…

For years, Clustre has been championing the cause of nimble, niche firms. We believe these agile game-changers are the true artists in innovation. And this survey shows that senior executives also share this opinion. More of them are ‘Likely’ or ‘Very Likely’ to turn to Innovation Brokers – such as Clustre – than any other source of innovation solutions and services.


Thank you for this honest vote of confidence.

10. High-level summary and learning points
  • Innovation is an absolute imperative – 100% of respondents deemed it either ‘Very Important’ or a ‘Life or Death’ priority
  • CEOs closely followed by CTOs and CIOs are the senior executives that are chiefly responsible for driving innovation
  • Select one person and give them a clear mandate – and budget – to deliver innovation. When you define their role and empower responsibility, you will deliver results.
  • ‘Funding’, ‘Cost of Innovation’, ‘Organisational Complexity’, ‘Cultural Constraints’ and ‘Regulation’ were the five key constraints to innovation… however, a further 10 factors weighed heavily in the balance
  • 100% of respondents were either ‘Likely’ or ‘Very Likely’ to adopt emerging technologies in order to deliver innovation
  • Predictably, ‘Robotics’, ‘AI’, ‘Big Data’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ were seen as the most important of today’s ‘crop’ of emerging technologies… however a further 26 technologies were also cited as decisive in the mix of options
  • In the next year, the following technologies will have the biggest impact: AI (including Machine Learning & NLP), Data-driven Analytics, Cloud Delivery/Broking, Cyber Security, Robotic Process Automation, IoT, Automatic Speech Recognition, Mobile Apps and Chatbots.
  • The most valued sources of inspiration and insight are: External Peers, Internal Colleagues as well as Conferences & Exhibitions
  • In order of popularity and priority, the most sought-after sources of innovation services and solutions are: Innovation Brokers, Personal Recommendations from Peers, Advice from Internal Teams, Accelerators, Systems Integrators, Analysts (e.g. Gartner) and Management Consultancies.
  • Concerns about technology selection, suitability and compatibility can create massive senior-level uncertainties. So, use a specialist innovation brokers – such as Clustre – to guide you through this complex and often perplexing process. Finding the right emerging technology is not the issue – ignoring the need for it, certainly is!
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