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How does Google stay ahead?

Google's Jo Flint (Head of Global Agencies and Partnerships, APAC) talks to SRI's Helen Soulsby


Steve Lohr, writing in the New York Times, once described innovation as, "the crucial ingredient in all economic progress - higher growth for nations, more competitive products for companies, and more prosperous careers for individuals." Just as Darwin argued that evolution was necessary for survival in the natural world, Lohr argues that change is necessary for survival in the business world.

Legacy players that quickly respond will survive; those that do not will die. This has long been the mantra of the disruptors of Web 2.0. But just as these digital pioneers were once peripheral threats and are now among the most powerful conglomerates, this adage has truly gone mainstream.

SRI partnered with innovation intelligence company, Springwise, to take the pulse of current attitudes and approaches to disruption and innovation. We surveyed 348 global leaders, and in parallel, scanned the markets for the ten most relevant examples of innovations demonstrating current trends across our industries. We've also developed 'ten tenets' for successful innovation, intended as a start point for debate.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Charles Darwin

Executive Summary

Change is the status quo

One overwhelming message is that change is now accepted as the status quo. Booming levels of innovation are disrupting the old ways of doing business and bringing new, more efficient methods to the fore. This is no cyclical blip; there is no way back to 'how things were'. The majority (63 per cent) describe levels of disruption as 'high' or 'highest it's ever been', and over three quarters (77 per cent) agree that the pace of change is only accelerating.

Consumers are in the driving seat

While technology is still seen as a major disruptor, changing consumer behaviours and demands was rated as the top driver of innovation. We are in the age of the "prosumer", said one, as customers have the whip hand – and technology is giving them the power to wield it. We feature some current examples of innovations designed to satisfy the increasingly discerning and demanding customer, in the 'Innovation in Action' section of this report.

Leaders are embracing change, not running from it

But far from being fearful, leaders we talked to are bullish about the future. Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) said they embraced change as a net positive for their organisations, and more than half reported that they are thriving in a rapidly-changing environment. This is perhaps the most surprising – and affirming – theme to emerge from the data. Contrary to the idea that industry leaders are negative about change, most see it as a good thing and are excited about the possibilities.

Proactive disruption breeds confidence; but for each disruptor there is a disrupted

Innovation may be in the eye of the beholder. Half of our respondents agreed they were 'disrupting the industry in which they compete'. Those that view themselves as 'disruptors' are more confident in every dimension: about their vision, culture, skills and processes. However, almost the same number felt they had been 'significantly disrupted by competitors or by external industry trends'. This could suggest that for every disruptor there is a disrupted – a Yin and Yang of disruption if you will – but some of the former category also fall into the latter. Disruption is fluid and disruptors quickly become disrupted if they stand still. The need for continual self-disruption has never been more pronounced.

Confidence in leadership and skills to execute lags vision

The overwhelming majority (80 percent) feel confident in their vision for innovation however much less (only 57 per cent) agree that they have the right skills to execute their strategy. Tellingly, every single respondent who felt 'very negative' about the change affecting their business also reported that they did not have the right skills.

Innovation must be led from the front

Finally, it is clear that innovation strategy starts at the top. Our respondents considered the CEO/Board to be more than twice as influential with regards to innovation within their company compared with the Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Technology Officer. However, a CEO cannot drive innovation alone and needs the right self-disruptors to deliver an agreed vision.

About the study

SRI is wholly focused on working with companies across the entertainment sphere. As part of our work, we make it our business to develop our understanding of the issues that matter to our network. Innovation is critical for the fast paced, consumer focused industries in which we operate, so we instigated a research exercise, in partnership with innovation intelligence company, Springwise. We surveyed 348 global leaders, and in parallel scanned the markets for the most relevant examples of innovations demonstrating current trends across our industries.

Survey respondents

Survey Respondents' Locations
Survey Respondents' Job Titles
Survey Respondents' Industry

* In addition to core industry groups surveyed, we had a very small number of respondents from a wide range of additional sectors including, but not restricted to, esports, sporting goods & fashion and marketing agencies.