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Signs Of Anxiety Emerging Among Global Business Leaders As Innovation And Competition Accelerate

GE (NYSE: GE) today unveiled the results of its third annual “ Global Innovation Barometer,” which found that while business executives continue to value innovation as a strategic priority, one in three report concerns over their ability to maintain a competitive edge in a faster paced, more globalized and resource-constrained environment.

This emerging “Innovation Vertigo” – an uneasiness with the changing dynamics of today’s business landscape and uncertainty over the best path forward – is challenging leaders to think differently about how they will achieve growth. Many executives, however, seem to be embracing this complexity by exploring new and sometimes unexpected opportunities to innovate.

“Innovators must be resilient or risk being left behind,” said Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of GE. “Change has become constant and we see leaders responding by betting big on more unconventional approaches to innovation to unlock growth. At GE, we are exploring different markets, partnership structures and business models – all in the pursuit of uncovering new ways to better serve our customers and meet the world’s biggest challenges head on.”

The Barometer was commissioned by GE and conducted by independent research and consulting firm StrategyOne to explore how business leaders around the world view drivers and barriers to innovation and how those perceptions influence strategy. GE expanded the study this year by surveying more than 3,000 senior business executives in 25 countries, all with direct involvement in their companies’ innovation strategy and decision making.

Risk of Protectionist Policies

Many executives appear torn about how to best respond to the changing business environment. In an effort to mitigate this perceived risk to their business and local economies, many are responding by adopting protectionist tendencies; 71 percent of executives reported that their government should prioritize promotion of domestic innovation rather than imported, while 71 percent also reported that their governments should actually open markets further and promote imported innovation and investment. Paradoxically, there was a 53 percent overlap between these two opposing views.

  • Executives in Mexico (80 percent), India (56 percent) and Brazil (50 percent) were most likely to advocate both open and closed market policies as a means to better innovation.

“Since the global financial crisis, we have worried that economic volatility will weaken the consensus behind free and open international trade. Today’s report suggests that even among business leaders the siren song of protectionism may at times be difficult to resist,” said Karan Bhatia, vice president and senior counsel for Global Government Affairs and Policy for GE.

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