Advancing an Innovation Orientation in Organizations: Insights from North American Business Leaders

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Christopher B Dobni
Mark Klassen


The word innovation is widely referred to in business circles as the next level of competitive advantage. However, for many organizations today, it lacks tangibility as managers struggle with developing an innovation orientation that provides sustainable value creation. Using a mixed methods research approach, the aim and contribution of this paper is to report the qualitative findings of Fortune 1000 (F1000) organizations concerning their efforts to implement innovation agendas. Over 1100 business leaders were surveyed, which proves to be one of the largest surveys of innovation to date amongst the F1000. This article sets out to answer three basic questions as it concerns the implementation of an innovation agenda in organizations. These questions include: What does innovation mean to organizations? What has been the biggest challenges to introducing and sustaining an innovation orientation? And what has worked well in supporting an innovation orientation? What we have discovered is that leaders’ thoughts on innovation are anchored on the need for changing the status quo and trying something new. They are also particularly aware of the correlation between innovation and performance. The change theme is further echoed as the predominant barrier to change. That is, breaking the inertia of the status quo is seen as one of the top barriers to innovation. Further, our findings identified six common challenges to introducing, executing and sustaining innovation. These barriers revolve around resistance to change, organizational process, leadership, funding and resources, the external environment, and customer adoption. Finally, there are a cluster of activities that have worked well to support successful implementation of an innovation orientation in organizations. Important activities such as leadership for innovation, knowledge management, organizational structures and processes, and aligned performance management were identified by leaders as noteworthy to successful innovation.

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Author Biography

Christopher B Dobni, Edwards School of Business University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Brooke Dobni is a Professor of Strategy at the Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan.  He is the current holder of the PotashCorp Chair for Saskatchewan Enterprise, an endowed research chair.  Since 2004, his administrative contributions included serving as the Dean, Associate Dean, and Department Head of Management and Marketing at the Edwards School of Business.  His research focus includes strategy and innovation.