Originally published on the Vistage Research Center


Rapidly changing markets — fueled by fierce competition, changing customer requirements, accelerating technological advancements and an uncertain economy — have left CEOs with two choices: innovate and grow, or stick with the status quo and face the threat of becoming obsolete.

According to the survey, the top-five barriers to innovation are:Of course, innovation is easier said than done. To better understand how small and midsize businesses approach it, we surveyed 1,432 CEOs about the actors that enable and hinder innovation in their companies. Data from the survey was analyzed by researchers at the University of Southern California, as well as Marc Emmer, a business strategist and Vistage speaker.

  1. Lack of time
  2. Limited capital/investment
  3. Resistance to change or new ways of thinking
  4. Too much focus on existing work
  5. Low employee engagement

“CEOs cite time as their number-one constraint to innovation,” Emmer shares. “We find that if roles are not clearly defined, executives focus more on working in the business than on the business, which leaves little time for innovation.”

Shelley Li, a researcher from the University of Southern California, adds, “In most organizations, there is tension between doing the main or established business and exploring new business. People want to push forward in executing for existing clients. They set goals and want to achieve and measure against those goals. They have limited time and resources already. On top of that, they want to have time to think about new ideas and experiment. That’s a big challenge.”

Our new report, Innovating for growth, delves deeper into common innovation barriers and explains how CEOs can effectively unlock innovation in their companies.