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Three Steps that Businesses may Take to Innovate Beyond Boundaries

by Tanu Sri

The pandemic has functioned as a fuel for innovation; as scientists raced to develop a vaccine at breakneck speed, business was even faster in adapting to a work-from-anywhere paradigm.

Beyond Boundaries, a new research on the state of corporate innovation today, was released by Lenovo Group. The study shows how businesses are innovating their way into the post-COVID future, not only to meet unmet demand and thrive, but also to improve their social and environmental performance.

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for innovation – while the scientific community were producing a vaccine at unheard-of speed, commerce was quicker still in largely transforming to a work-from-anywhere model.

Lenovo surveyed senior decision makers in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and Asia Pacific. The result is the ‘Beyond Boundaries’ report, a deep-dive into changing attitudes to innovation, and the tensions that exist post-pandemic for businesses looking to re-build and grow.

Report highlights include the findings that:

  • Businesses recognize that diversity is directly related to successful innovation, but there is more work to do before individuals can be their authentic selves at work.
  • Disrupting a stifling, hierarchical culture – also related to effective innovation – is far from easy. The study finds some leaders are struggling to embrace a bottom-up working environment.
  • Business agility has led to improved innovation. However, there are fears that these gains will be lost as firms transition back into the office, or adopt a hybrid model that balances on-site and remote working.

Despite all of the great press surrounding risk-taking and innovation, many organisations remain apprehensive of taking risks. Six out of ten businesses (59%) say top management frequently requests that an innovation be discontinued because it is too risky or experimental. In North America, this figure jumps to 70%.

And what of the much-vaunted environmental impact of innovation? The larger a firm is, it appears, the more likely it is to use innovation to improve environmental sustainability. Fortunately, nearly half (49%) of larger organisations feel that improving their overall environmental sustainability performance is an important driver of innovation.

Meanwhile, compared to 54 percent of all those surveyed, 60 percent of larger organisations said the crisis accelerated their efforts to employ innovation to improve their social and environmental performance.

“Over the past year, COVID challenged everyone and changed everything – so we responded to the challenge with what we know best: innovation,” said Yuanqing Yang, Lenovo Chairman and CEO. “Now, on the threshold of the next reality, innovation remains key to unlocking our full potential. As we transform from a leading device maker to a global technology powerhouse, capable of solving the most challenging problems faced by our customers and the wider world, this commitment to innovation is more crucial than ever.

“For us, innovation is by its nature unpredictable, and is applied in unexpected places – such as revolutionizing hybrid working environments and improving environmental and corporate governance practices. But none of this happens in a vacuum, which is why we talked to business leaders around the world about what comes next – and how together, a focus on innovation can help us change the world for the better.”

Other highlights include the findings that:

  • Senior leaders say they want to step back and let innovation flourish, but the experience of junior executives suggests otherwise.
  • Innovation relies on diversity, but the ability to “fit the mold” helps if you want to challenge the status quo.
  • To unlock the next level of innovation, businesses should use technology to build on COVID-era openness and collaboration.

The full report is available here.

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