By John Sviokla, Principal, Global Thought Leadership Leader, PwC –
Despite economic uncertainty in various parts of the world, optimism about growth abounds. According to PwC’s 2015 CEO survey, 61 percent of respondents see more growth opportunities than they did three years ago. Clearly, innovation strategies will play a key role in determining which companies will lead the way. Yet, if recent Global 1000 Innovation Survey is any indication, only a fraction (27 percent) believe they have mastered the elements they will need to make their innovation efforts successful.
The problem is that most companies focus on making changes to an existing process, which at best will yield incremental innovation in the way of an updated product offering. To foster innovation that has the potential to transform markets and industries, it’s critical to make efforts not about process, but about people, because that’s where a company’s greatest growth potential lies.
What kind of people are needed to drive transformational innovation and massive growth? To answer this question, my colleague Mitch Cohen and I analyzed 120 self-made billionaires across 19 industries. All founded at least one company worth billions, and some founded several.
Regardless of industry, the individuals in our study shared certain habits of mind, both rational and emotional in nature. They have the imagination to envision a product or service that customers need, the willingness to do the necessary analytics to make sure the offering is on track, and the agility to change course in mid-stream if it isn’t. In sum, they have what I’d call “commercial courage.” People who draw on their commercial courage to create massive value are what we call “producers.” Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, and Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, are prime examples.
These findings carry some important implications. Any company in pursuit of billion-dollar growth needs to take a hard look at its leaders. Do they have the habits of mind needed to drive transformational innovation? Or have they relegated people with those traits to positions where their ability to foresee and act on new opportunities remains unrecognized and unrewarded? By making the effort to identify and support their commercially courageous employees, companies can produce the blockbuster offerings that customers want—and tap into the growth opportunities that await.