The Innovation Dilemma

In today’s commercial arena, innovation is critical to grow and position your company as a leader within its market(s), and position it above the competition. Many, however, don’t know where to begin nor how to foster and drive it within their organisation.

At a recent roundtable I ran, we discussed innovation and its use as a driving force for revenue growth. The attendees were IT leaders from a number of large enterprise organisations, and hailed from all over Europe ready for an engaging discussion (no pressure!).

We started the discussion by going around the room asking everyone what the barriers to innovation were in their organisations.

There were a number of recurring points that weren’t surprising, such as who should own innovation across the organisation, and how do they foster and engage innovation within their organisations and prioritise the elements of it accordingly.

What did surprise me, however, were comments such as “what exactly is innovation?” and “is delivering new products, ideas or services that improve revenue just me doing my job well?”

I hadn’t expected to hear this, but it really made sense and drove our discussion on to how do you measure innovation against doing your job well? This is not an easy task, but if you are set an innovation target within your organisation, be it revenue- or service-focused, it’s a crucial one you will need to resolve.

This really highlighted that though every organisation is trying their damnedest to deliver innovation, what they are really struggling with is how to foster, engage with and measure it accordingly.

How do you truly measure innovation? Is it through your product creation team delivering the right products to the right markets and capturing critical commercial momentum, or is it simply altering an online process to make it easier for clients to register themselves?

The truth is that in any organisation where free thinking and entrepreneurial activity is encouraged, not stifled, and is coupled with hard-working smart employees, you are going to get innovation.

You are also going to create a great working environment that will attract more smart, hard-working people, who can create better products and services, which create additional revenue and clear competitive advantage. What’s not to like!

Many of you will be thinking this is a brave commercial stance, but you can’t argue with the results of those that do change their business strategy and working models like this. It may be hard work and anathema to some, but the changing of the guard with relation to that of the traditional executive way of thinking is underway, as millennial ideologies and commercial practices seep further into enterprise organisations as they rise up the executive ladder.

There are many ways in which larger organisations are trying to increase their rate of innovation. For example, creating innovation labs and associated teams to partner with startup incubators like MassChallenge, which does a fantastic job in this space and is non-profit.

JLAB at John Lewis is an excellent example of one such innovation hub, where they are encouraging startups to come to them and compete to win unique access to John Lewis. This will help them refine their products and business models, with the final prize being the opportunity of securing a contract with them.

UBS is also looking at new technologies that will disrupt its industry, such as Blockchain, and has set up labs and an open competition for entrepreneurs and technology startups around the world to compete for funding.

These are fabulous opportunities for new and established startups to work with established corporates, and really fosters the growth of innovation and entrepreneurship in our society, and I am very much in favour of these efforts.


In today’s world, technology enables us to achieve so much of what we only dreamed possible a few years ago, and most people are now so attuned to it that there really is no argument for not enabling and fostering innovation within your organisation.

You now have to concentrate on changing your culture to incorporate, foster and grow innovation within your organisation. It will be hard work, but boy will it pay you back, and it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done.

Share your views and opinions on this via our LinkedIn Group.

Christian McMahon - Picture

Christian McMahon FBCS CITP FIoD is a proven business-facing partner and board level expert in Business transformation: Strategy development, validation & execution: Driving disruptive innovation & business change that enables the achievement of corporate goals, accelerates growth & delivers competitive advantage: Delivering large technology solutions in complex multi-supplier environments and Architecting global IT infrastructure & services to provide clear business value.

Christian has a notable background in helping organisations innovate through the development of digital services that drive revenue, reduce costs, enable new market penetration, elevate client engagement, automate processes and enhance the customer experience. He has extensive global board level private, public and non-profit sector experience in multiple sectors with significant reach and influence across social channels.