TRENT BAGNALL: Innovation needs structured tactics

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s insightful words need to be heeded. Picture: Nic WalkerIN his recent acceptance speech, our new Prime Minister quipped, ‘‘’s future is agile, innovative and creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves’’. While the first sentence got the headlines perhaps the most insightful statement is that ‘‘we can’t future-proof ourselves’’ This statement is a direct challenge to government and importantly to corporate innovation in .

There are unsurprisingly not many good examples of n companies disrupting themselves, primarily because it sounds like a counter-intuitive thing to do.

In reality, most corporate innovation programs either produce little or are slow and expensive to run. It is important for leaders to recognise this and often the best approach is not to use brute force for change from above.

If you don’t have skills in starting, it makes sense to use organisations that can produce innovation cheaply and quickly. These include technology startups whose single aim is to disrupt existing businesses by executing their business plans, as Malcolm Turnbull states, in an agile, innovative and creative way. But where do you find these startups? Entrepreneurs have been good at hiding. Recently, the rise of co-working spaces, incubators, meet-ups and accelerators means that corporates can now engage with startup talent more easily. It makes sense for startups to get together with corporates who can help them scale. Once you have found them, though, it’s simply not good enough to have a cup of coffee and suggest they meet the management team someday. Corporates need to ensure they have a structured program that can bring innovation into the organisation and has capacity to look at a wide range of ideas and startups that could add value to your customers.

So what factors lead to a successful innovation program?

Culture: 27 per cent of n corporates think they are highly innovative, however only 13 per cent think is highly innovative! Unless you have a strong culture of innovation, your company is at risk of disruption. Google is good at innovation because it was born with a culture that allows innovation to thrive within. If you do not have this, it is important to first recognise this – potentially bring in some innovation talent and, importantly, work closely with external startups in your market.

KPIs: Management, particularly middle management, have to be allowed to participate in innovation projects and also be incentivised to do so. Even though employees see the importance of adopting innovation, if they are not incentivised to do so, it just looks like more work.

Framework: All employees need to understand the company’s innovation frameworks. There needs to be a structured program and approach to innovation. How does the company go from idea, problem testing and customer validation, through prototyping and on to market testing? Is it coherent and do employees understand how it works?

Vocabulary: We see a lot of innovation projects run by an internal ‘‘cool kids’ club’’. The majority of the employees of the business not only do not understand why we are doing these projects, they do not understand the language the innovation team is using. There are many acronyms in innovation so it is important to demystify how the company talks about innovation.

As the Prime Minister suggests: ‘‘We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.’’

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