Digital leaders need to innovate further and faster, according to a Deloitte and Spencer S...


Survey shows 90% of organisations believe embracing ‘good failure’ is important; 97% of organisations look beyond their traditional boundaries for innovative ideas.

Deloitte, the business advisory firm, and Spencer Stuart, the executive search consulting firm, have combined their expertise to produce the final edition of the Digital Leadership series, ‘Innovating for a digital future, the leadership challenge’. The report focuses on how Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) companies can innovate beyond their traditional products and deeply ingrained ways of working.

The findings were discussed at a Deloitte and Spencer Stuart debate of 40 leading TMT leaders, including Virgin Media’s CEO, Neil Berkett. The survey taken at the debate reflects the three unexpected paradoxes illustrated in the report:

1) ‘Good’ failure is critical to the innovation process

For innovation to flourish, organisations need to embrace failure; yet not many CEOs would survive if they made failure a virtue. The majority (90%) of the digital leaders surveyed, agreed that organisations need to embrace failure and ‘good’ failure is critical to the innovation process. A small number of the leaders (10%) questioned whether any form of failure was acceptable.

2) Innovation is a social sport

Deloitte and Spencer Stuart’s analysis found that innovation was not the preserve of ‘lone geniuses’: these ‘geniuses’ needed to work effectively with others to produce innovative ideas. The majority of digital leaders (97%) looked for innovative ideas from outside their traditional organisational boundaries. Actively seeking customer feedback was cited by 80%, looking at ideas from different industry sectors (70%) came second, and working with creative agencies/consultancies (68%) was the third most popular place to turn for inspiration.

3) Innovation is somewhat anarchic; ‘organisation’ can impede it

Deloitte found that innovation rates substantially increase where there is a large population of people, yet large organisations do not appear to gain an innovation premium. Effective digital leadership is imperative to overcome this. The digital leaders ranked: creating an organisation which people want to be part of (27%), recruiting the right people (25%), and making sure you have people leaders in leadership roles (21%) as the most important areas for an effective leader to tackle.

Will Gosling, Deloitte media partner, said: “In other words creating an innovative organisation means leaders need to think in a systemic way. Looking across the whole organisation and challenging it to think and act differently. A true leadership challenge.”

Grant Duncan, leader of Spencer Stuart’s UK media practice, said: “What our research has clearly indicated, is that digital transformation is not something that either one great leader or one great technologist can deliver. It's about a fundamental redesign of the organisation, its interrelationships and leadership philosophy whereby ownership of decisions and actions is more widely distributed. For a classic command and control culture this is likely to feel uncomfortable but the benefits in terms of the creation of a genuinely future-facing business, more than outweigh the pain.”

Deloitte’s research also uncovered some common areas where innovative companies focus their energy, including:
1. Having an explicit, or implicit, approach to building a portfolio of innovations;
2. Creating a culture which embraces experimentation and a degree of risk taking;
3. Building mechanisms into their organisation to financially reward innovation and making innovation everyone’s job;
4. Having a relentless focus on acquiring the right talent and creating an environment where people can flourish.

Will Gosling concludes: “Innovation is not a simple task, if it was, the world would be full of innovative organisations. Yet it is one that leaders in the TMT world need to apply themselves to. Leaders are looking to challenge their organisations to innovate further, faster. This acceleration is also reflected in consumers’ willingness to embrace new technologies and inception to mass adoption can now take place over only a couple of years. Even well entrenched market leaders can quickly lose their footing unless they adapt quickly to the new market conditions.”

“Because of these market pressures, companies that are built on creating and monetising intellectual property within the digital economy need to consider how they need to transform in order to remain relevant, competitive, and continually responsive to this pace of change. Many existing major corporations are finding that orthodox management practices and organisational principles are not well suited to support them on this journey.”

The event was held at Deloitte’s new iZone facility, a space developed to foster collaborative working and innovative thinking. 


The Deloitte Cambridge office comprises 8 Partners and over 250 staff who deliver a full range of professional services to the East Anglian region. As well as focussing on the life sciences and technology sectors for which the region has become so renowned, the office has long standing specialisms in other sectors including the professions, consumer business, food and agribusiness.

Deloitte LLP