How to foster and harness innovation
Innovation is the key to remaining relevant amidst a sea of digital disruptors.
ADAPT research shows that many Australian CIOs are not taking innovation as seriously as they should. A follower mindset has crept into the historically innovative Australian business psyche.
At Digital Edge in May, we asked thought leaders their proven and most effective ways to foster and harness innovation.
Simon Waller – Digital Champion, Author and Advisor
I believe that innovation has to become a bottom-up thing. innovation has to come from the bottom because that is where the problems exist. So if we want to foster innovation, we have to provide and make it easy for those people to be innovative, to make it easy for people to change. So I created this idea of friction.
So do you, is it harder to do the things I want? Or is it harder to do the opposite? So if I want you to be innovative, is it hard to be innovative? Or is it hard to maintain the status quo? At the moment, I said, a lot of organisations, we actually make it hard to be innovative, rather than making it hard to maintain the status quo. So we got to put the friction in the right place. If we want people to actually change their behaviours.
Vincent Pierce – GM at Westpac NEXT
I think, to me, it just simply means thinking different. Not being limited by the way things currently work, not doing things the way they’ve always been done, finding new sources of inspiration, looking outside your sector and area, and factoring in different approaches to common problems.
Dr. Ian Oppermann – Chief Data Scientist and CEO NSW Data Analytics Centre at NSW Government
So I think Australians, inherently are quite an innovative, innovative bunch. And I think that rather than producing things with a bit of wire and trying to sell it to the rest of the world, the ability to produce digital products and digital services take away a lot of the traditional barriers that Australia’s had to access to markets and tyranny of distance. So I think Australia is actually very well placed to innovate. The challenge is we still punish people for getting things wrong, and particularly punish government or government punishes itself, for getting things wrong. Now that’s getting better. But the ability to experiment in a safe environment and learn from it, and then scale up and scale up, is what we ultimately need to do. My favourite example is exactly the Apollo series. It wasn’t Apollo 1 that got to the moon, Apollo 2, or Apollo 3, it was Apollo 11. So there’s a lot of disciplined experimentation, always increasing and scale of ambition, but strongly supported because of the purpose. We need to allow ourselves in Australia to experiment to test, try and learn. And to not be afraid of, in a way not be afraid of actually being bold and believing in ourselves.
Kerrie Campbell – CIO at Flinders University
I think in the IT sector, we used to be the big black box, which was heavy and expensive, and really difficult to make those changes because it could have been catastrophic. But nowadays, things are much leaner and nimble. And we’ve got allow our stuff to do it. We don’t allow it staff to have those failures and those changes and those quick ways of learning, bringing in more agile and lean concepts now, allowing that, but we’ve also got to stop finger pointing when things go wrong, and use that as file first attempt in learning, rather than this is a problem. And we’ve made a mistake, and it’s going to cost sometimes when you’re running a big project, if you have $5,000 into it, and then we’ll work out that it’s not going to work. Well, that’s a better outcome than doing a $1.5 million project.
Toby Heaton – Armstrong – Head of Digital Technology at Dexus Property Group
So I think it’s quite interesting how you approach innovation. Certainly, there’s a very much a macro level, what is the business doing? And how does the business before and that kind of gets picked up by receiving the senior management who look at how that works, but other more localised levels, as we put its systems and platforms, in your case, a customer experience? I think the way we’re viewing it, as we roll out, say CRM is very much around how do you take sort of continuous improvement cycles? So you put the base in, but then actually, how does the business make use of that data and information? Not everything you try works, but how do you then sort of either stop, continue if it is working, or pivot and try something slightly different. So very much the patterns where we’re trying to put it within it around sort of continuous improvement streams. But making sure we’ve got good foundations initially,
Ines Almeida – Digital Transformation Advisor at ANZ
it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about, because I have over two decades of consulting experience, and what typically happens is that I see or am part of all of these corporate strategy and transformation visions. And what happens is, once you look at 100 of those from all over the world, you start realising that they are all the same.
We all talk about agility, when it comes to operating model, we all want the single customer view. And because we are stuck in those foundations, we are actually not using our imagination, our creativity, and we are really not innovating when it comes to serving our customers and customers need right. So bringing imagination back and creativity back is incredibly important. And being able to have support different types of individuals in the organisation, you will notice noticed that, because it’s easier to go to a board and talk about operational innovation or effectiveness, why because reducing costs, everyone signs to a cheque for a transformation that is cost-focused. But that is only valuable if it’s leading to a business that is responding to customer needs. And he’s able to grow.
So creativity, imagination and focusing on the customer. And right now we have tremendous tools to do that we have more data than ever data, data data, we have AI and analytics that we need to use very cautiously, but it’s there. And we have people that aspire to make a difference in businesses that are ready to be unleashed. And that hates to be stuck in boxes, right? You can’t at the moment with young people, what they want is to add values and experience many different things. How do we make that happen in businesses?
Douglas Ross – Partner & Managing Director at Adaptovate
We like to talk about test and learn. So the more that you actually iterate and try and do something over and over again, the more that you will actually get the thing improving. So innovation from our perspective is the word actually really comes from the word innovator, which means to renew. So you’re not actually talking about creating something new, you’re talking about renewing something. So it’s all about iterating on top of it. So from my perspective, creating that environment is once again doing things over and over again, and then trying to improve on it and learning from but then also being in a situation where you bring a disparate group of people together to actually do it. So we talk about cross-functional teams, but it’s all about cross-functional ideas and different people coming together with different ideas to then renew the current situation.
Paul Shetler – Partner at AccelerateHQ
So innovation is a word, it’s a buzzword, right. It’s one of those type things we throw out as just being a good thing. You know, and we want to transform so we can be innovative as one of the lines here quite a bit as if innovation by itself was going to actually help us out. We want to transform to be innovative to compete is probably the thing, right? So innovation is just being competitive, I think really, you know, finding new ways to be competitive, scaling things out. So they can be competitive, new discoveries, new, new ways of doing things.
But it’s not in and of itself. In end, it really can’t be because if that is the case, then you know, sort of like people who say, we need to be empathetic. And empathy is also a good thing. But it’s not an end in itself. Right. So I just think that’s really what it comes down to, we need to have you need to have an organisation that is able to fund and govern projects and products out there. So they can actually be done quickly. So that we can learn fast, so we can actually learn from our mistakes. So we can see if we’re doing the right thing. Is there even a need for what we’re doing and make these decisions quickly? So we don’t waste lots of time.
Sherif Mansour – Distinguished Product Manager at Atlassian
It’s really hard, to be frank. And I think the bigger you get, the harder is to do it. Because of you, your second guess and look at all your investments. I think there are probably two main ingredients, I would say. The first ones are remembering the innovations, everyone’s job. So I think we often assume that will I get a team and we’ll put make that the innovation team will put them centrally but will tell everyone else is the job not to innovate.
Pontus Siren – Partner at Innosight
The simple answer, if there is such a thing is you need a common language. People need to understand that there are different types of innovation, you need to innovate in the core. That’s very important. That’s incremental but doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Then you need to innovate, innovate, the customer interface, how we interact with our stakeholders and our customers. Again, hugely important, a certain set of challenges. Sometimes you need to innovate the business model. Again, without that common language, people get confused about what are we trying to do and what’s important, what’s not. And often I find, what we do is we simplify it, we try to simplify it and say, Look, these folks are working on the core innovation effort, hugely important, but it won’t transform the company. And then a small group of people is perhaps people are perhaps working on business model innovation, other efforts. But without that common language. People just can’t communicate and you run into some very predictable problems.