For many B2B leaders, innovation is great in theory but difficult in practice. Immense digital disruption has forced B2B companies to explore how technology platforms continue to radically impact the buyers’ purchase path.

Most C-Suite executives have stated that cloud computing, mobile solutions and the Internet of Things are likely to revolutionise their businesses, according to the recent IBM Institute for Business for Business Value study: Redefining Boundaries: Insights from the Global C-suite Study. In fact, a quarter of respondents stated that they are likely to change their revenue model and re-assess target customer types. Still there is a great hesitancy to embrace change.


Thirty-five percent of marketing executives said that a traditional mind set is the biggest barrier to innovation. Another barrier is risk aversion as well as low tolerance for failure. Companies that utilise old thinking and processes may not be able to withstand the requirements that allow creativity to grow, which is fundamental in attaining the breakthrough of innovation that they desire. Companies striving for ever-increasing efficiency, while still holding on to a typical business culture, are antithetical to the innovation they crave. Here are the three pivotal steps for innovation to succeed.

1. Change Starts at the Top

It is imperative that mind sets among executive management change first, to become receptive towards new ideas and disruptions. Innovation is difficult to explain in terms of return on investment; it is not always quantifiable in itself. Innovations that have the potential to disrupt may suffer when they are put up against safe projects as they grind through standard budgeting processes. Companies can avoid the ROI trap by including all key decision makers in creating and expanding the view of measures from the ground up. It must start at the top and it must be a mandate.

2. Employees Must Be Empowered to Innovate

Innovative leaders are able to envision the path that leads to ideas becoming a reality. Once the leader forms a vision, they must be able to share it with employees, suppliers and business partners, while also motivating them. Frameworks and processes can aid in the emergence of creativity in a way that is acceptable for leadership. However, applying standardisation will slow down or stop the creative efforts.

3. A Culture of Creativity Must Be Nurtured

As the roles blur in the C-suite, the CMO is increasingly impacting technology decisions. They must be the first to recognize that not all ideas are good ideas. But if you can create the right conditions for creativity to emerge and utilising frameworks such as design thinking, it can build a culture that leads to innovation that will impact everyone.

The IBM Institute for Business Value Study indicated that 72% of C-suite respondents said that technology is the biggest factor affecting their business whereas 67% saw industry convergence as a major factor in the next few years. Clearly leaders are aware the change must happen. As difficult as it sounds, leaders must think differently on ROI and have the innate ability to calculate the risk involved. All the while they must maintain an empathetic focus on their people.

No matter how stable or successful the company is, they must make innovation the first order of business on all fronts. If they fail to react immediately during this remarkable period of technological change, they face hard times or even extinction. If they don’t innovate, you can be sure their competitors will.