Innovation in the Work Place

As we come into the final quarter of the calendar year and look to plan for the next by kicking off research with a quick google search for “innovation in the workplace in Australia in 2019” you will find ~50M results since the beginning of the year. Could this mean that 2019 has been a tremendous year so far for business productivity by adapting to market challenges and pivoting to achieve progress? Are we seeing an increasing in the demand for innovation? Are more people writing about innovation in the workplace because it is front of mind? Or is it just a current buzzword? Perhaps it is all of these and more.

The “Innovate for change: How Australian organisations can transform by embracing a culture of innovation and new ways of working” report, conducted by Stollznow highlighted many revelations in workplace innovations, with key findings including 75% of respondents reported that Innovation is not a core value whilst business face a perennial struggle to keep their existing operations running well while adapting to market changes and developing new products or services ;and without the right mix of digital technology and processes, the culture of innovation will be overshadowed by manual processes which are increasingly ineffective, and do not meet customer or staff expectations.

As organisation’s are operating more-and-more in markets with increased change and fragmentation, where does digital transformation impact on key decision making? The organisation needs to take the opportunity to work on the business rather than just within it to explore how it’s culture can impact collaboration, in turn it’s productivity and innovation.

What is Innovation?

Drivers for Innovation happen everyday, “how can we make this better? Or there must be an easier way?” Whether we are politicians, IT Managers, farmers, CEO’s or engineers these questions can occupy the minds from the very beginner to the seasoned professional; however, workplace innovation seems to garner less attention than other areas and occupies the mindset of a smaller wedge of senior organisational management.

The desire to innovate doesn’t discriminate, with all industries seeking opportunities to grow or accelerate towards; such as residential real estate agencies increasing their listings and reducing their time on the market or legal practices adapting to highly disruptive-fragmented marketplace and managing operational pressures or aged care record management meeting compliance requirements.

Regardless of an organisations size, key innovation questions revolve around how it can reduce costs, create productivity efficiencies or grow business through new products and opportunities.

Whilst larger organisations may have greater access to resources to meet innovative workplace demands, smaller businesses too can focus on the following key elements.

Innovation and Culture

The spirit of innovation is driven by an organisational culture where both senior management teams and employees work repeatedly to reinforce best practices that collaboratively, systematically, and continuously create valued new products and solutions to customers. They have a deeper value of innovation beyond hackathons, start-up award ceremonies- PR photo opportunities, or internal innovation pipeline accelerators borne out of politics and bureaucratic red tape. They generally have autonomy, multi-year budget, unwavering commitment from CXOs and the innovative culture to develop-test-fail-refine with discipline.

Their compass, Innovation strategy provides the goals, direction and framework for innovation across the organisation. Individual business units and functions may have their own strategies to achieve specific innovation goals, but it is imperative these individual strategies are tightly connected with the over-arching organizational innovation strategy

The custodians of this strategy and ambassadors of culture can be managed by an Innovation Steering Committee, the senior management team or a subset of it are responsible for gaining alignment on the strategic and financial goals for new product development, organisational improvements as well as setting expectations for Portfolio and Development Teams.

Innovative Problem Solving Methods combine rigorous problem definition, pattern-breaking generation of ideas, and action planning that results in new, unique, and unexpected solutions. When combined with an Innovation Lab where accelerated project delivery with sustainable change management principles to solve problems facing the organisation. Depending on an organisation’s budget and market position an actual lab may either take digital or physical environments and can range from workshop practices to test-development platforms to sponsored innovation hubs. This can be seen in Insurance Australia’s Group’s (IAG) launch an Insurtech innovation hub in Singapore to connect the insurer to Singapore's global innovation network and entrepreneurial community.

The Innovation Engine creative activities and people that actually think of new ideas. It represents the synthesis phase when someone first recognizes that customer and market opportunities can be translated into new ideas. Having mechanisms building on feedback and insights gained from Net Promoter Scores (NPS) or Employee Engagement programs can provide the initial platform as a feedback loop to develop, test, pivot , launch, reiterate or retire products/services, operational ideas and cultural beliefs. Legal firm Gilbert + Tobin have a dedicated arm based around this how data can help progress in these areas.

With the foundations laid around organisational innovation, measuring and understanding how that innovation impacts an organisation’s productivity will shape it's critical success factors in meeting it's original objectives.