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MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte 2019 Global Study IDs External Networks as Key to Advanced Digital Innovation

Businesses also looking to cross-functional teams and attention to ethical guardrails to guide and direct innovation.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 4, 2019 — As digitally-maturing companies invest more in innovation, they are achieving transformation at a faster pace than early-stage companies, according to a study released today by MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and Deloitte. The eighth annual study, in its fifth year focusing on digital business, found that 80% of respondents from digitally-maturing companies say their organizations cultivate partnerships with other organizations to facilitate digital innovation. Meanwhile, at developing companies, the number drops to 59%, and at early-stage companies, only slightly more than one-third (33%) do the same.

“This year’s study shows more reflection by business leaders on what innovation means and how to best achieve it,” said Deloitte Digital's Doug Palmer, an author of the report and principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Digitally-maturing and early-stage companies alike recognize the importance of innovation. However, this year’s study shows more concrete guardrails are needed to support long-lasting models for innovation through collaboration, experimentation and ethical considerations.”

Based on a survey of more than 4,800 managers, executives and analysts from global organizations, digitally maturing companies are not only innovating more, they’re innovating differently. This group is increasingly driving innovation through collaborations — established externally through digital ecosystems and internally through cross-functional teams — for greater agility. According to the study, 83% of digitally-maturing companies use cross-functional teams to innovate, compared with 55% of early-stage companies.

“We see that digitally maturing companies increasingly innovate with cross-functional teams. They’re more likely to have an agile, fail-fast, learn-fast mentality,” said Gerald (Jerry) Kane, guest editor at MIT SMR; professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College; and an author of the report. “All organizations should be careful, though, to consider the ethical implications of their work — on business and society. We found a company’s digital innovation sometimes outpaces its governance.”

This increased agility doesn’t come without risk. Innovation through collaboration can encourage companies to move faster than governance allows. As innovation continues to accelerate, digitally mature companies are considering both the social and the ethical implications of digital transformation. The study found that with greater flexibility in company structure and employee roles and responsibilities comes the need for ethical standards — something companies are increasingly considering, but not as swiftly as they evolve:

  • Company policies increasingly reflect ethical considerations regarding digital innovation. Digitally-maturing companies are more likely to have adopted these policies with 76% of them implementing, compared with 62% of developing organizations and 43% of those in the early stage.
  • Despite a recognition of ethics’ role in digital innovation, companies may not be doing enough. Only 35% of respondents across maturity levels say their companies are talking enough about the ethical implications of digital business or communicating the impact of their digital initiatives on society. Not even half (46%) of CEOs say their companies are spending enough time on ethical matters.

“This year’s study shines a light on companies across all levels of digital maturity that are starting to reflect on the big-picture impact of innovation,” said David Kiron, executive editor of MIT SMR and an author of the report. “More leaders are thinking deeply about the influence of new innovation models on their business operations and society at large.”

Visit MIT SMR to download and read the full report. To explore specific implications digital innovation has on individuals’ career outlooks, take this self-assessment. Get additional study insights from Deloitte Insights’ Accelerating Digital Innovation Inside and Out: Agile Teams, Ecosystems, and Ethics report.

About the Research

The MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte business study was conducted in the fall of 2018 and captured insights from individuals in 125 countries and 28 industries from organizations of various sizes. Digital maturity was measured by asking respondents to “imagine an ideal organization utilizing digital technologies and capabilities to improve processes, engage talent across the organization, and drive new value-generating business models.” Respondents then rated their company against that ideal on a scale of 1 to 10. Three maturity groups were observed: early (1-3), developing (4-6), and maturing (7-10).

About MIT Sloan Management Review

A media company based at the MIT Sloan School of Management, MIT Sloan Management Review’s mission is to lead the conversation among research scholars, business executives, and other thought leaders about advances in management practice, particularly those shaped by technology, that are transforming how people lead and innovate. MIT Sloan Management Review captures for thoughtful managers the creativity, excitement, and opportunity generated by rapid organizational, technological and societal change.

About Deloitte

Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500 and more than 5,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across the industry sectors that drive and shape today’s marketplace — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them. Our network of member firms in more than 150 countries and territories serves four out of five Fortune Global 500® companies. Learn how Deloitte’s approximately 286,000 people make an impact that matters at

Media contact:

Victoria Phillips
Public Relations
Deloitte Consulting LLP
+1 424 400 9130

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