LONDON: Chief executives are taking greater personal responsibility for directing and inspiring innovation as it becomes an increasingly important factor in generating growth for brands and companies, a new survey has said.

A PwC Pulse Survey of 246 CEOs in North and South America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East revealed that just 3% of respondents did not regard innovation as a priority for their businesses.

Some 37% saw their primary role on innovation as being a leader, while a further 34% saw themselves as visionaries.

PwC put the rise of innovation up the agenda down to a transformed competitive climate in which the internet, social media and digital devices had revolutionised consumer expectations and buying habits.

It also noted that incremental product improvements were no longer enough to sustain growth and CEOs were now looking for new sources of revenue as well as better products.

After products, the business model and customer experience topped the list of areas where CEOs' attention was focused in the medium term. PwC observed a shift in focus from products to solutions, as in the example of a soap powder maker opening a chain of launderettes.

And the role of technology was also evolving, away from product enhancement towards gaining better customer insights.

A major obstacle to chief executives achieving their aims was the culture of their organisations, cited by 41%.

Having the right culture to foster and support innovation and a strong visionary business leadership were seen as the most important ingredients for successful innovation.

Related areas, such as the capacity for creativity, willingness to collaborate with customers and readiness to challenge accepted norms were also high on the list.

Data sourced from PwC; additional content by Warc staff