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Agile innovation

This month we look at how business leaders embrace the culture of innovation, to convert technological innovation into productivity enhancing workpractices.

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3 min

Innovation nation: Embracing change in Australian business

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Innovation nation: Embracing change in Australian business

In a world of mobility and agile working systems, innovation is the key to business success.

“There are risks for everybody, and we’ve got to be prepared to take risks,” proclaimed Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with the launch of the Federal Government’s $1.1 billion Innovation Plan on December 6th 2015. “The key to our success is innovation to drive productivity and competitiveness.”

At the core of the Innovation Plan are a series of tax breaks and a radical new approach to insolvency laws offering a US-style Chapter 11 clause, which makes it possible for businesses to trade out of a cash-flow crisis rather than being forced into bankruptcy.

The message couldn’t be clearer as the mining boom subsides; the Australian business community needs to become more agile, less risk averse, more collaborative and ultimately be prepared to accept failure as a fundamental step on to the path to success.

The Innovation Plan is designed to encourage a change in corporate attitude towards innovation in Australia, the cultural challenge faced by business leaders should not be understated.

 

Innovate to remain relevant

Over the past decade, the impetus to adopt more agile business practices has become an imperative not only within the IT sector, but across all industries as individuals and whole businesses have been replaced by new platforms and players in the digital economy. In effect, digital disruption has become a euphemism for losing market relevance in an economy threatening to outsource one in six Australian jobs to robots by 2030.

However, just a day before the release of the Innovation Plan, 22 Australian business leaders of the country’s largest and most powerful corporations were asked to define innovation, and the results were published in The Australian Newspaper. Of the 22 respondents, only one, KPMG CEO Gary Wingrove, cited “being prepared to fail” as part of the innovative process.

It’s an attitude that needs to change if organisations are to survive and thrive in the current business climate according to Steve Vamos, former Microsoft Australia and ninemsn CEO, and non-executive director for both Telstra and Fletcher Building.

“Being afraid to make mistakes is a huge issue in our business culture. You have to be clear about your change agenda and then encourage people to fail on the road to learning because there is nothing you are good at today that you didn’t get good at by making mistakes,” says Vamos. “Nothing.”

Having led technology companies through boom and bust, Vamos has participated directly in the cultural shift that resulted in technology-based firms finding ways to effectively disrupt their own business models, lest they be superseded.

 

The age of agility

There’s no doubt that technological change will continue to force many business leaders to adopt a more agile approach to innovation at the same time as it provides the information, access and capabilities organisations need to make those changes.

For Australian companies, this might mean a less risk-averse entrepreneurial mindset; leveraging mobility to connect geographically dispersed ideas or using predictive business data in real time.

“There’s been a big recognition that ideas don’t just happen in one place,” says Annie Parker, co-founder of muru-D, Telstra’s start-up accelerator program.

“They can happen across all parts of the value chain of your business and if you’re not engaging with all those parts then you’re potentially missing out on some awesome ideas.”

 

Being afraid to make mistakes is a huge issue in our business culture. You have to be clear about your change agenda and then encourage people to fail on the road to learning.
– Steve Vamos, non-executive director, Telstra and Fletcher Building.

 

The time to innovate is now

As key players establish cross-industry partnerships, tapping into the capabilities they lack to form new, hybrid approaches, executives need to be more agile than ever before in order to remain relevant.

Together with the convergence of technology and government support, this means there’s never been a better time for large companies to embrace the innovation mindset, and be prepared to fail, in order to succeed.

“The reason you’ve seen that shift is just a significant reduction in the barriers for innovation,” says Parker. “[However], there are lots of different ways to engage in innovation. My advice to corporates is to figure out what problem you’re trying to solve first.”

 

Idea in brief

  • Companies need to reinvent their strategies every five to 10 years
  • The 21st century is about disrupting your own business from within.
  • If you’re going to innovate, figure out what problem you need to solve first.
  • Innovation needs to happen across all parts of the value chain.

Experience a brilliant connected future. Find out more about Telstra’s NBN plans today.

 
2 min

Seven secrets of agile leadership

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Seven secrets of agile leadership

Some companies thrive whatever the challenge. So what’s the secret to their leadership success?

In the face of increasingly fast-paced change, leaders all over the world are bringing agility and insight to their roles.

While most employees are disengaged – 86 per cent according to Gallup research – there is a group of leaders who are bucking that trend. Here’s what you can learn from them:

 

1. Stand for short, sharp meetings

A 12-minute standing meeting, called To The Point, is the most important meeting at The Physio Company, says founder and CEO Tristan White. Starting at 10:05 and finishing at 10:17am, it keeps the seven participants focussed. “Being late or unprepared is not an option,” writes White on his blog, Culture is Everything.

2. Manage projects visually

Post-it notes trump online project management tools like Gantt charts and email in the agile world. David Rumsey, Tourism Australia’s chief information officer, uses wall charts to track work visually, dividing tasks into three columns: To Do, In Progress, Done. This streamlines tracking across projects and departments.

3. Fail fast

Author and management expert Tom Peters advises leaders to live by his motto: Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast. Agile leaders create iterations of projects, test them with customers, then change them.

Jo Burston, founder of Job Capital and Rare Birds, told SmartCompany she too lives by this motto and has no fear of failure because mistakes are the best teachers.

4. Abolish performance reviews

When health insurance company Cigna announced the abolition of performance ratings there was a standing ovation among the company’s HR managers. This is just one example of how neuroscience is transforming our understanding of leadership; in particular, leaders’ use of coaching to influence knowledge workers, who do not respond well to command-and-control-style leadership.

 

5. Promote women

When companies promote women, they perform better. Still, few leaders take the message to heart. One who did is Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac bank until last year. In 2010, Kelly committed to a target of having women in 40 per cent of the senior management roles at Westpac by 2014; she achieved that goal two years ahead of time.

6. Tear down walls

Collaboration means communication. Walls don’t help, says Tim Thurman, the Australian Securities Exchange CIO. He removed all the offices on the technology floors of the ASX to foster communication. When big IT projects are underway, he sends his technology staff to work in the part of the ASX business that will be affected.

7. Fight for purpose

Today, it is companies that focus on a higher purpose than profit that engage their workforce and outperform their competitors. Judith Downes, chair of Bank Australia, reported a 2014 after-tax profit of $25.5 million for her bank, which is owned by customers. Describing itself as a responsible bank, it invests up to 4 per cent of profits through the Bank Australia Impact Fund, stays carbon neutral through the Bank Australia Conservation Reserve, and creates and keeps jobs in Australia.

Get the flexibility, performance and reach to confidently deliver services to your employees or customers as required.

 
1 min

The key to success: Strategic digital partnerships

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The key to success: Strategic digital partnerships

Strategic digital partnerships are the key to unlocking success in the digital world, says the EIU’s John Ferguson.

In an effort to cater to increasingly mobile and constantly connected consumers, traditionally “offline” companies are forging strategic digital partnerships at a rate faster than ever before.

Driven to maximise consumer experience, companies are looking beyond their own industries, seeking partners that can help them capture the attention of new customers across new markets. Specialisation is key to the formation of these unique relationships, says John Ferguson, senior economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

“With so much specialisation, with all these start-ups and new companies [emerging], it enables a lot more relationships,” Ferguson says. “It enables companies to find partners either in a formal way or an informal way where they can try these things.”

“From a business perspective there’s probably never been a better time to seek strategic digital partnership.”

 

There has probably never been a better time for businesses to seek strategic digital partnership.
John Ferguson, Senior Economist, Economist Intelligence Unit

 

[transcript]

John Ferguson, Senior Economist, The Economist Intelligence Unit

Consumers are moving effortlessly between the real world and the digital world.

What we call offline companies – they realise that – that they are now looking for partnerships in the online world to be able to give consumers that sort of experience.

There is so much specialisation and the rate at which people are specialising is – is incredible.

Because of all these changes and so much specialisation going on companies are now looking outside their industry, looking for partners in other areas to help them sort of capture new markets, new customers, because that’s what we’re expecting.

Specialisation is a big part of this drive to create digital strategic partnerships.

Basically with so much specialisation and all these start-ups and new companies it enables a lot more relationships. It enables companies to find partners either in a formal way or an informal way where they can try these things.

From a sort of business partnership perspective there’s probably never been a better time to find a partner like this.

Discover how businesses can embrace disruptive new technologies; respond to the “always-on” customer; and generate new revenue streams by fostering strategic partnerships – Download the Whitepaper.

 

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1 min

Creating the agile shopping experience

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Creating the agile shopping experience

To survive in the mobility era, retailers need to do two things: listen to customers and continuously adapt.

Customer experience is no longer a one-way street. Consumers today seek instant access to frictionless sales, access that looks set to grow as technology continues to unlock possibilities around agile user experiences.

Responsive leaders, on the other hand, are seeking to resolve rising tension between the need for predictability and a lack of predictability. This is why innovation is necessary to serve the customers of tomorrow, says Mike Arauz, founding member of August Management Consulting.

“Retailers [need] to change how their organisations operate and to move to a more responsive operating model where they can share and access information easily and can learn and adapt continuously,” Arauz says.

 

What organisations need to do culturally and from an operations standpoint is figure out how to learn and adapt to develop their capacity to sense what’s going on in the market.
– Mike Arauz, founding member, August Management Consulting

 

[transcript]

Mike Arauz, Founding member, August Management Consulting

All these companies are operating in a time of exponential change. Things are changing so fast and it’s so challenging to keep up.

Everybody is carrying around little portable computers that have instant access to online shopping. A retailer’s system can lower the friction to completing that purchase, that – instant gratification.

So what organisations need to do culturally and from an operations standpoint is figure out how to learn and adapt to develop their capacity to sense what’s going on in the market.

A typical retailer’s got hundreds, thousands of employees out there in the stores talking to customers every day.

So they talk to customers and they’re hearing all this information about what’s going on in their market that customers care about, about changes in consumer behaviour. What happens to that information?

What’s really important for retailers is to change how their organisations operate and to move to a more responsive operating model where they can share and access information easily, can learn and adapt continuously, and where they can empower people inside and outside their organisation to help them be successful.

Innovation in Retail highlights the technologies that will shape the retail sector in the next 2-5 years. Download the Retail Innovation Whitepaper to find out more.

 

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2 min

Data-driven solutions: Making freight agile

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Data-driven solutions: Making freight agile

Data-driven solutions pave the way for an efficient freight industry.

The freight and logistics industry is crucial to the growth of the Australian economy and a number of its most significant sectors – from energy to pharmaceuticals.

The freight industry relies on the dissemination of large amounts of information due to its complexity. Yet when big data is introduced to this paradigm, an opportunity arises to drive sustainability and greater efficiency, says Cate Hull, CEO at Freight Exchange.

“Our model is very much based around the sharing economy,” Hull says. “Ultimately, what we want to do is create a single platform on which you can move a container from Hangzhou in China to Dubbo in NSW – all at the click of a button.”

 

“Ultimately, what we want to do is create a single platform on which you can move a container from Hangzhou in China to Dubbo in NSW – all at the click of a button.”
– Cate Hull, CEO, FreightExchange

 

[transcript]

Cate Hull, CEO, FreightExchange

I was doing some work in Fremantle, which is a beautiful port town, and I saw all of these empty trucks driving around and I couldn’t quite understand why you would have a quarter of a million dollar truck driving into a container park empty while another one was leaving.

It turned out that there was a huge problem – there was no information sharing because so many different parties were involved. One in four or five trucks were driving around empty.

My background is in corporate big data, so I’ve spent my whole life using technology and data to do things better. We saw a big opportunity in freight to really drive sustainability and better efficiencies in the industry.

Freight has typically been very complex. There’s a lot of information you need to know and a lot of factors involved in making things work properly.

Our model is very much about the sharing economy. Ultimately, we want to create a single platform where you can move a container from Hangzhou in China to Dubbo in NSW at the click of a button.

This will require us having all the information on all of the trucks moving from the manufacturers to the ports in China and then, you know, all of the sea – all of the ships moving across the oceans, and then eventually all of the trucks moving throughout Australia.

So it’s unbelievably complicated behind the scenes and very simple up front.

Discover more about Telstra’s startup accelerator, Muru-D, and how the path to digital starts with people.

 

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