I recently reviewed the results of the 2013 GE Global Innovation Barometer. Now in its third year, the barometer surveyed more than 3,000 business executives actively engaged in the management of their firms’ innovation strategies. The survey pool covered multiple industries in 25 countries, including both developed and emerging economies, and fundamentally explored how business leaders around the world view innovation in an increasingly complex and globalized environment.

There were two insights from the study that I believe are worth highlighting:

  • First, in this era of austerity, companies are more focused on improving existing products or services to boost future performance than they are on looking for and investing in the speculative “next big thing.” Listening to your customers, making incremental improvements based on their feedback and then implementing them may not be as sexy as creating Facebook, but they are the pragmatic realities of incremental innovation.
  • Second, the report highlights the importance of collaboration and partnerships for driving innovation. Across the entire pool, 87% of business executives agreed that their firms could be more successful with innovation through partnerships rather than going about it alone.

Companies in emerging economies show greater interest in partnering. Canada needs to get on this, too!

What was most interesting, though, were the differences at the country level. For example, with the exception of China, emerging economies, including Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Malaysia, all scored above 90%, citing a strong desire to partner to drive their companies’ innovation and growth strategies. As for the developed countries, the United States, Australia, Sweden, and South Korea all scored 88% or above, whereas other countries, including Canada, Ireland and Japan, were noticeably lower on the scale, scoring below 80%.

Perhaps this should serve as a reminder to Canadian business executives that whether you are part of a startup or a multi-national enterprise, one of the primary ways that we as a country can compete on the global stage is to create meaningful partnerships and collaboration agreements with the right players, whether domestic or international.

Companies in emerging economies understand this and are becoming increasingly competitive with each new partnership. We have to get on this, too.

Don Duval

Don Duval is the CEO of the Northern Centre of Advanced Technology, a regional innovation centre focused on working with community partners to help start and accelerate the growth of innovative companies. He is a founding MaRS Ambassador – speaking around the world on topics related to innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship. See more…