In the past decade, I have listened to many leaders across all sorts of industries and organisations dialogue about innovation but very rarely have I seen organisations actually embody and live the outcomes of these dialogues. Facilitated dialogues and workshops with the endorsement and often participation of company leaders invariably leave participants highly enthused. Yet very often after a relative short period of time, organisations absorb this optimism and little changes. Leaders attest to the many difficulties associated with innovation, not least of which are the political ramifications. Innovation is like a political movement, often polarising entrenched hierarchies, organisational elites and factions. Innovation favours ideators and implementers, those wanting to overthrow the status quo and get on with change, challenging anybody who stands in their way. How a leader handles this unresolved organisational tension is crucial to the implementation of innovation. Over the last couple of months I have observed a trend within some larger organisations in which senior leaders are starting to engage internal staff in something more than just dialogue about innovation. I can’t put my finger on what it is directly but for want of a better description I will call it - innovation action. Innovation action is beyond mere dialogue and seems to follow a rough pattern.
Accurate analysis around innovation activity in services and the services industry in the Australian economy is very difficult to track down. Firstly there are issues of definition of what the services industry actually constitutes and possibly lots of overlap with other supposed “non-service” categories such as Agriculture, Manufacturing and Mining & Resources. Secondly there is a paucity of understanding of how the innovation systems in services industries typically operate. In one sense the services sector has been a victim of its own success – because it has been steadily growing and has not been in decline like, for example, Automotive Manufacturing Sector, it has not ended up being the focal point for in-depth studies about its innovation characteristics. On the definition side, the Australian Bureau of Census and Statistics writes.. “a service industry produces services valuable to consumers as a final product, such as services provided by cafes and restaurants, or valuable to other service and goods producers as an intermediary input, such as wholesale trade and accounting services.” Hardly helpful!! While ABS reports that in 2012 services made up 71.2 percent of Gross Value Added economic activity and provided jobs for 86.1 percent of employed persons, there is only poor data and limited understanding about the operations of the many services sub-sectors, which are increasingly niche focused and which also increasingly defy simple ABS categorisation methods. As I started to look for detailed data and evidence to better understand the dynamics of the local services sector and its innovation practices I quickly started to draw a blank. I googled various variations on the theme of innovation research
The services industries already make up over 75 percent of Australia’s economy and with the predicted future slow-down in resources investment it is imperative that they are as innovative as possible to national growth. Innovation in services in Australia is critical to the creation of the high-value jobs of the future and to stave off the increasing trade exposure of lower value services tasks. The Australian Services Roundtable (ASR) believes that a nationally concerted focus on stimulating services innovation is critical and this needs to be supported by evidence-based research of current state positions and opportunities. As such the launch today of the ASR Services Innovation Index (ASRIIx) is a joint development between ASR and acknowledged global innovation thought leader Dr. Ralph Kerle. For the first time
The cumulative creative behaviours of senior leadership teams offer a strong indicator of whether an organization can successfully work their way through an innovation or transformation initiative. I stumbled across this phenomenon when I started to witness impediments and then the breakdown of well intentioned and well planned innovation initiatives on an organizational scale. It was clear to me these impediments occurred at senior levels not because of any deliberate subterfuge. They occurred because of “the blind spot phenomena” in creative skills and capabilities within teams working on innovation. The cliché “what you don’t know, you don’t know” occurred to me as best way to describe these circumstances. Creativity, that element of discovery, experimentation, invention, perception and risk which drives innovation, creativity’s output, is subjective. It is influenced by our personal creative attitudes, behaviours and practices. It is an area of skills development that goes to the very heart of who we are and how we behave and is very difficult to talk about directly. In my own journey as an innovation practitioner, the “blind spot phenomenon” revealed itself slowly over a period of six months as a result of the application of
The Current Climate With the US economy finally starting to turn around, China continuing to grow, albeit a little slower, and the awakening of global regional economies with relatively stable governments such as Central and South East Asia, skilful and measureable strategic innovation will emerge in 2014 as a key organizational capability. Yet, for all the millions of articles, interviews, tweets and videos offered almost daily on the topic of innovation, there is little real understanding and experience at senior leader levels around the length of commitment and type of experience required to make innovation a key driver for business or organizational success . In 2013, in particular, I had conversations with senior leaders in which they declared the time had come to grow their business again. Over the last six years since the global financial crisis, they have successfully managed the business by