Ben Pask
Ben Pask 18 November 2015

Culture Is The Biggest Barrier To UK Innovation

Culture, education, and departmental silos are cited as being the main barriers to innovation in the UK.

Only one-in-five people working in the UK (22%) feel highly confident in their organisation’s ability to meet the current demands of innovation, according to a recent study by marketing & innovation consultancy Rare: Consulting.


Culture (33%), education (30%) and departmental silos (25%) are cited as being the main barriers to innovation within in UK business. The research indicates that marketers are more attuned to these issues compared to the UK average, and are more likely to agree that organisational culture and confidence are the biggest barriers to innovation in their business.


The timing of the research sends a word of warning to the UK business sector, just 3 months after the UK was ranked second in the current Global Innovation Index research. Current projections estimate that the UK will see 600,000 new start-ups in 2015, and London can boast the highest number of shared office spaces in the World, suggesting that the UK capital is a melting pot of ideas and creativity.


However when we lift the lid on internal workings of UK businesses, the picture is not as rosy at it would seem. The results of the survey reveal that UK businesses spend a lot of time looking over the fence at what their competitors are doing. Over one-in-four (28%) UK businesses innovate just to keep up with competitors, and UK businesses are more likely to refer to their own category (51% within category; 46% outside of category) for inspiration. Alarmingly of those surveyed, only 23% of businesses are innovating to meet future customer needs.


Comparisons inside the category should be for benchmarking and reference, rather than inspiration and leadership. This view is echoed by Chris Kreinczes Creative Director at Springwise, “Only businesses think in categories. Customer expectation is not set by your category, it is set by their experience of customer services.” Chris continues, “Businesses need to take account of both direct and indirect competition. Just look at how Uber has disrupted expectations in the on-demand transport sector. It is also set to disrupt the food delivery, airline and motor industries, who all need to consider these evolving customer expectations set by other categories.”


In the Rare: Innovation Index, one of the biggest barriers to innovation identified by Marketing professionals is that senior management do not encourage innovation practices, indicating that employee empowerment is not a common ritual at work. However, compared to the UK average those working in Marketing are more likely to be involved with the internal practices of innovation. Karl Havard, Director at Rare: Consulting commented, “In the research, only one-in-three businesses communicate their key customer segments internally within the organisation. By flexing their communication skills, Marketing departments can help by guiding others in identifying their key audiences and inspiring their peers with the latest innovations. That will certainly help build confidence and understanding in the value of innovation.”

One of the principle findings coming through the research is that businesses need to do more to empower employees to innovate. Four-in-five people (79%) want to help their business innovate, however only 50% feel empowered. Some of the key stats given below should raise a few eyebrows for UK business leaders.

Conducted through online surveys and face-to-face interviews with over 450 businesses in the UK, these are the first insights presented as part of a longitudinal study conducting by Rare: Consulting, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University.

David Edmundson-Bird Associate Director of Digital Innovation at the University commented, “This snapshot of UK business innovation should act as a warning from the future. We are at a pivotal moment in economic and social development in the UK, akin the moment at the beginning of the industrial Revolution. More than any other factor, ‘Digital’ has the power to tremendously alter the social and economic development of the United Kingdom. It is an issue of national strategic importance.”


The report is now available for download at and includes interviews and opinions from some of the leading innovative businesses in the UK including Nesta, Google, GSK and Springwise.


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