There is a startling disconnect in the perception of a company’s innovation levels between C-suite executives and middle management among Australian businesses.

And according to a new study from workplace technology company Ricoh and research firm StollzNow, this disconnect, combined with other factors, is causing Australia to lag globally when it comes to innovation.

The Workplace Innovation Survey asked participants from 300 Australian organisations to assess factors such as human experience, communicating strategic vision and internal processes to create a ‘workplace innovation index’.

The average score of the workplace innovation index among C-suite execs was 74.0 (out of 100), compared to 61.3 in middle management.

“There is an incredible disconnect in between levels of management,” said StollzNow quantitative director Neil Stollznow.

“Innovation is viewed with far more success from the C-level than it is from the middle management level.

“C-suite think everything is hunky-dory, department heads think things are kind of okay, and middle management see the grim reality that is the Australian workplace.”

And this ‘grim reality’ is becoming apparent in a global context.

Australia is now placed at number 20 in the Global Innovation Index, despite being ranked 13 in terms of GDP.

This could be because innovation is not a core value for 75% of Australian organisations, states the report.

Ricoh Australia CEO Andy Berry said a fundamental shift is required.

“In today’s rapidly changing economy, innovation is a must and should not be seen as a ‘nice to have’ or a ‘department’,” said Berry.

“The research reveals significant disparities between what Australian organisations are pursuing and what is seen as important.

“We know innovation can deliver operational improvements and new business opportunities, but we’re not elevating its strategy value, from the boardroom to front-line staff.”

Why not innovate?

So why are Australian businesses so idle when it comes to innovating?

Like most things, money is a major factor.

The biggest threat to innovation was budget/available resources (24%), followed by risk aversion by staff and management (22%).

Human resources are also a factor, with only 27% of businesses believing they have the right people to address the need to innovate.

Even when innovation does happen, it isn’t always smooth sailing.

Innovation and productivity are often closely linked, but the research shows that innovation may actually halter productivity, at least in the short term.

The research found that 61% of business leaders reported productivity loss after a new system or processes are introduced.

This was reduced to 57% when staff are involved in the introduction of the new technology.