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B2B executives, are you seeing these barriers to innovation in your company?

Our latest white paper about B2B innovation references some interesting industry research reports, one of which comes from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It's been working with Businessweek to conduct annual global surveys of senior executives on their innovation practices. I thought their latest report would make a great topic for our B2B Innovation blog series, so here we go!

The report, “Innovation 2010: A Return to Prominence -- and the Emergence of a New World Order,” posed many interesting questions to executives, and I encourage you take some time to look it over when you can.

One question that drew my attention in particular was, "what are the biggest obstacles you face when it comes to generating a return on your investments in innovation?" This is a prime question I've been talking about lately with executives at B2B companies, which is why it caught my eye.

Many of the challenges executives have told me jive with the BCG report. So I thought it was worth sharing these findings with you, and seeing if you're experiencing something similar in your organization. Perhaps this is an emerging or developing trend we need to be paying attention to.

The BCG researchers found the two biggest barriers to generating a return on their innovation investments were:

1. Having risk-adverse cultures
2. Lengthy development times

This is similar to what I've been hearing from some B2B executives. They've told me they aren't well-equipped or don't know how to make the transformational moves necessary to foster cultures of creativity and innovation. Risk aversion is a classic barrier to change, and as a result, hampers innovation.

In addition, some of these B2B executives are selling enterprise solutions with often complex and lengthy sales cycles. They say deployment and upgrades can require significant effort. And they typically have to support multiple versions of a product and need to decide how much backward compatibility is required to bake into new versions. This slows their ability to develop new ideas and bring them to market ahead of their competitors.

Some executives I've talked to have said that they need to build a more highly evolved innovation strategy into their product development process to ensure that new products and features address market needs.

They're looking for an innovation process that engages a meaningful dialogue with customers so they can identify high-quality ideas early, which would help them decrease their time to market and ensure that products and features in development are what customers want -- and will buy.

Some of these executives also realize that their product managers must play a central role in their innovation process. Product managers are naturally positioned to engage with customers and incorporate their feedback into the product development process. But these executives are struggling with how to get this initiative started.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you experiencing something similar in your organization? Would love to hear your thoughts.

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