Millennials View On Innovation

Deloitte recently conducted a survey of millennials (born 1982 or later) and their views on innovation. The survey was conducted in 18 countries including developed, BRIC, and developing countries with a sample population of 4982 people.

The study is interesting as it illustrates how the next generation of leadership differs from the current with respect to innovation, how local societal challenges are seen as drivers for innovation, how governments in some countries are holding back (or unable to fully establish conditions for) positive change, and the millennials view of value of competition in solving social challenges.

Global Millennial View

With respect to innovation the key views of global millennials are:

  • 78% of millennials believe innovation is essential for business growth;
  • 71% view innovations from business directly help to improve society;
  • Innovation is seen as one of the top three purposes of business along with improving society and generating profits;
  • Top six challenges facing society: resource scarcity (#1); inflation (#2); ageing populations (#3); unemployment (#4); social unrest (#5); and climate change (#6);
  • Top four business performance measures beyond financial terms were: employee satisfaction and retention (#1); customer/client satisfaction (#2); contribution to local communities (#3); and innovation (#4);
  • Sectors most in need of innovation were: government (#1); energy & resources (#2); and consumer business (#3);
  • Tomorrow’s innovators will be characterized by: creativity & design (#1); academic/intellectual ability (#2); ability to challenge technical skills (#3); being entrepreneurial (#4); and knowledge of specific ideas and techniques (#5);
  • 66% say innovation key to making the firm an employer of choice with 60% saying they work for an innovative employer;
  • 95% view it to be acceptable to make a profit that benefits society.

Gap in Creating Conditions Fostering Innovation

The largest gaps in the conditions seen as most important to foster innovation as viewed by the global millennials are in order of the gap size (# of most important condition):

  • Encourage & reward idea generation & creativity (tied #4);
  • Provide employees with ‘free time’ that they can dedicate to learning (tied #6);
  • Leadership encourages idea sharing regardless of seniority (#1);
  • Promote openness and the freedom to challenge (#7);
  • Commitment to successfully advancing innovative ideas (tied #4);
  • Strong inspirational leadership (tied #6);
  • Clear vision for the future (#2);
  • Encourage both formal & informal learning (tied #5);
  • Commitment to continual development/improvement internal processes (#3);
  • Commitment to continual development/improvement of products & services (tied #5).

These observations suggest that there is a gap between the priorities of current business leaders and the next generation beyond the typical focus of most business innovation on process and product improvement. Millennials see that their ideas are not being heard and they are not being given the opportunity to develop their own ideas to drive social good. This was also reflected in the views that it was easier to be innovative if you work by yourself than a large business and new businesses are seen as more innovative.

Barriers To Innovation

The top barriers to innovation viewed by global millennials are:

  • Lack of Money / investment / financial pressure (22%);
  • Internal culture / attitudes / stuck in ways / inertia (20%);
  • External economy, government etc bureaucracy / organizational (12%);
  • Poor leadership / management / lack of vision (10%);
  • Skill shortages no incentives / low pay (8%);
  • Poor working practices / lack of teamwork (8%);
  • Time / general pressure (5%);
  • Lack of creativity (2%).

Global millennials commented on the internal barriers, bureaucracy, ‘old school’ attitudes, as well as cultural restrictions on thinking that was holding back firms from innovating.

Solving Societies Top Challenges

The key take away from the survey suggests that global millennials see business as a force for social good, innovation as important to solving the world’s biggest societal challenges but still aligned with profit motive.

Necessity as the mother of invention was clear in the data from BRIC and developing countries. The degree of urgency behind the need for social good was illustrated with a very striking tendency for BRIC or developing countries such as South Africa to see innovation as very urgent whereas developed countries to be below the average on many measures.

The views of the top challenges facing society was also very different depending on the country with inflation being a big concern in Asia and US, ageing population in Japan/China, unemployment in Europe, and social unrest in Germany/Russia. This suggests in a globalized world that the perceived societal needs are very local/regional which has big implications on global and export firm market entry strategy looking to expand into BRIC or developing markets.

Finally global millennials view collaboration as important and business competition as actually hindering the environment for solving the biggest societal challenges.  The collaboration of businesses with one another was seen as the most likely method to succeed in solving societal challenges with collaboration with government, NGO, and universities as less successful but still better than direct business competition.

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