Innovation in the workplace

by 12 Jun 2013

There is a common thread underlying many of Australia’s most innovative companies - they recognise that when times are tough, innovation is essential. Christina Gerakiteys outlines how they do it.

There are a plethora of articles written about Innovation in the Workplace. As each workplace is a combination of its own unique qualities, each organisation will have a unique formula for fostering innovation peculiar to it’s own culture. This article is not about reinventing the wheel on Innovation Best Practise but rather about drawing attention to the possibilities.

Innovation needs the backing of top-level management if it is to be taken seriously or have any chance of success. This means an investment of time, which usually means an investment of dollars. Recent research out of Harvard University suggests that Top Down support for Innovation produces stronger results if the CEOs and Senior Managers take part in company conversations, workshops, seminars or think sessions at the ground level. Not surprisingly, companies where innovation was valued had hands on leaders – leaders who got involved in the creative work.

In 2012 BRW and Inventium ran a competition to find Australia’s top 30 most Innovative companies. ClickView, a video streaming service for schools, took out first place. Harvey Sanchez, CEO, gave out a few tips at a breakfast in Sydney recently. “Your ideas create your future”, he said, “Listening to your customers is critical…and we empower our people. It’s even OK to have a crap idea.” 

The company has a Shoot Shoot Boom process to evaluate the merit of an idea. The team will focus on an idea and keep “shooting” at it. If the idea survives the initial firing, the company throws resources at it. They trial the idea and then trial it again. If it fails, company policy is to learn the lessons of that failure and if it succeeds they really “go for it”.

There is a common thread underlying many of Australia’s top 30 Innovative Companies. All clearly recognise that when times are tough, innovation is essential.

Traditionally though, the harder times are, the more likely an organisation is to adopt a conservative approach and therefore less likely to appropriately resource any innovation process. 

Just when we need to be investing more in generating new ideas and actualising those ideas, we become concerned with cost cutting and conservative approaches. At this point it is usually those with the least to lose that take the biggest risks and have the greatest chance of success.

From a business perspective, it is important to have Innovation written into KPIs and aligned with the strategic business of the organisation. This is often enough to step up the innovation process into more than just a tick and flick activity. Measurement can take the form of increases in productivity, an increase in the bottom line or perhaps an increase in employee engagement.

One thing is certain – nothing will happen unless the innovation process is supported. That means weekly team thinking sessions, applauding the courage to have a go and possibly fail, collaborative approaches, resources made available to develop the ideas, permission to Think Big and engagement with and listening to customers and clients. If you sell a product or service, take note of your customers’ body language, of the words they use, the expressions on their faces. Are they happy or frustrated, satisfied or disgruntled? Is there a problem that you can solve for them? Solve the problem and you have succeeded in creative innovation.

And if you’re fortunate enough to have employees that ask for permission to give something a go, say YES! Who knows what goals you could score.

Entries close July 3 for the BRW Top 30 Innovative Companies for 2013. If you’ve got what it takes, enter now


Author Christina Gerakiteys can be contacted at: