At a recent Gartner event I conducted an informal poll of 16 emerging technology managers. The results showed that most were experiencing relative stability in their staffing and funding. Less than 10% had experienced, or were projecting, staff cuts, and half were expecing to grow their staffing and funding levels by 2010. This may be counter to expectations in an economic downturn, but in fact mirrors our experience with inquiries from our clients, where we are still seeing a strong level of interest in emerging technologies and innovation. The lessons from the dot com era, when many organizations were blindsided by the rapid adoption of the Internet and felt they should have been better prepared, have been relatively enduring. Since that time we have seen a steady stream of interest from clients who want to formalize their emerging technology activities and processes to make sure they don’t miss “the next big thing”. Organizations realize that they need to innovate even (especially?) in tight economic times.
However, the same poll showed that around half of the organizations were shifting toward shorter term results, and focusing more on cost reduction than on growth. Still, over a quarter were refocusing on growth and longer term activities. This reflects the overall mood that companies feel they need to emphasize cost reductions and short term results in the current economic climate, but also shows that these trends are never “one size fits all”. The importance of making sure that your innovation activities are aligned with your organizational scope and goals - be they cost-cutting, growth, or a balance of each – is still paramount.