Step by step
There are, however, guiding principles that can help any organisation, no matter its size, to encourage and foster meaningful innovation. The first of these is a deceptively incremental approach.
Telstra’s Chief Technology Officer, Håkan Eriksson, explained the value of taking small steps towards achieving innovation, especially for larger, well-established companies.
“Usually people think of innovation as that which happens within the start-ups and small companies, but if a large company continues to do what it always did, a new start-up could come and take over,” Eriksson says. “You can’t become the 100-year-old company without innovating.”
“We have to be able to cooperate with the rest of the company so they see the value.”Håkan Eriksson, Chief Technology Officer, Telstra
The first steps towards innovation can be as simple as helping employees work better together and as straightforward as installing LCD screens that are compatible with wireless devices, projectors and interactive SMART boards for use during meetings.
Collaboration is key in highly motivated, engaged workplaces. Collaborative technologies are practical and allow employees to achieve common goals. They also implicitly encourage shared problem solving and idea generation.
To enable day-to-day communication, professional chatrooms such as Slack havebecome fixtures of the office environment. They allow flexible workspaces to stay connected especially if some team members are away from their desks or working from home. Slack is a recent disruptor in B2B collaboration, creating the opportunity to connect with external organisations using the software. This exemplifies how each small update tech developers roll out can trigger the opportunity for change within organisations.
Importantly, a shared understanding between employees and employers that updating technology can make day-to-day processes easier can lead to smoother training sessions and practical trials.
Software upgrades and tool tweaks can spark changes in processes and efficiencies, but to find your organisation’s unique opportunities there’s a far more potent agent of change accruing within: data. Most organisations are compiling huge amounts of it on a daily basis. In many cases, this data is untapped potential.
Eriksson explains that examining your organisation’s data and learning from it is a powerful step towards innovation. “When you start looking at it, as we are doing at Telstra, you’ll find there is a lot of value in data,” he says. “First, you can use it to optimise your own operations then secondly, create a better customer experience, and thirdly, to some extent you may be able to create a business on its own based on the insights from that data.”
Three keys for culture
Eriksson reveals the three attributes that are essential to creating an innovative culture within an organisation:
“You have to have competence. It’s not meaningful to start if you do not have competence in the area,” he says.
“Number two is confidence, and the confidence usually comes from earlier success or at least from some role models. If they can do it, we can do it. And the third thing is to have the ability to cooperate. We have to be able to cooperate with the rest of the company so they see the value and also cooperate with other parts of the ecosystem. So I think these three attributes are very, very important.”
Regular and open consultations with employees can ensure any new and upcoming initiatives will have a positive impact on their workflow and day-to-day outcomes.
Innovation doesn’t come without change. If continuous improvement is the main goal for a company, looking at the way similar companies implement new technology into their workflow and optimising your current processes are the best ways to achieve positive results.