For the past three years I have dedicated my life towards the exploration of innovation in the enterprise.
Having come from a background in consulting and banking, I know very well how the nature of large organisations, be it politics, processes and policies, values and culture, infrastructure or all of the above can not just inhibit but suffocate a company and its people’s ability to move, tap into their creative right brains and successfully innovate - that is, to not only extend a company’s existing S-curve but more importantly, to capture the next S-curve, in order to stay competitive and relevant in an era of rapid change and disruption to industry incumbents.
While I worked in risk management for a large investment bank, I took it upon myself to make a number of suggestions to the Director of my division, who although took the time to hear me out, had no appetite in doing anything that didn’t align with his core competencies and anything that messed with the status quo. Basically, I suggested in mid-2013 that we, as an investment bank, could be better making use of data analytics platforms and tools such as Hadoop and R programming language in order to uncover hidden insights that can help us not only better perform our forensic-esque jobs in risk management but also extend to better marketing decisions in the actual business.
The response? “Oh, we’ve got Mark. He’s really good with Excel.” This is a company that registered over one billion dollars profit in 2015 and has more than 10,000 employees worldwide.
Shortly thereafter I was fortunate enough to begin my life in entrepreneurship, having successful raised in the low six figures to build my first web startup, Hotdesk, an office sharing platform targeting startups, which evolved into Collective Campus, an innovation hub, school and consultancy based in Melbourne, Australia that works with both large organisations and startups to help them adopt the mindset, methodologies and tools to successfully explore new business models and disruptive innovation in an era of rapid change (“nailed it!”).
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with, worked for, given keynote talks at and helped companies such as Ernst & Young, KPMG Innovate, Macquarie Bank, Westpac, Dun & Bradstreet, King & Wood Mallesons, Sportsbet, NAB, Telstra, the Department of Defence, Microsoft and CapGemini at the top end of town and been involved in varying capacities with startups such as Noots, Coinjar, Drawboard, Rotorgeek, Parent Paperwork and Jobbop in the world of tech startups. Most recently, I was invited to be an advisory board member at the Australian Government backed AgInnovation initiative - developed to help accelerate Australian agtech which has long been touted as the ‘food bowl of Asia’.
Today, when ‘innovation managers’ and lead positions are popping up on an increasing basis, it is becoming evident that many, while they have their hearts in the right place, have come from remotely different roles where the mindset of delivery of what is was what was needed. However, innovation requires the mindset of a discovery of what if. It requires us to step away from taking few large, safe bets, towards taking many perceivably unsafe, small bets that of adopting a portfolio mindset and one that mitigates risk by doing, as opposed to mitigation (and paralysis!) by analysis.
This ebook represents a collection of posts that I have made over the past two years related to different mindsets, methodologies and tools that companies can not only adopt but optimise the use of in order to derive maximum value, benefit and achieve objectives.
What I often see is that we confuse movement with productivity and that executives often call upon their workforce to “be bold and innovate” without addressing the underlying environment that prevents the behaviours critical to innovation.
You might notice that this book numbers little more than 100 pages. That’s intentional. There are far too many business books out there that while they number several hundred pages, could essentially get their message across in a quarter of the time...your time. This book is not meant to be a form of intellectual masturbation - far from it, it is a simple guide for innovation managers to give them a clearer pathway.
As human beings, we have a tendency to overcomplicate and overtheorise in order to give our work apparent validity (ultimately by confusing and putting off the majority), however if Steve Jobs and Apple taught us anything, it’s that simplicity, accessibility and ease of use wins.
My personal philosophy on innovation and life in general is to just do it, which might be construed as cliche given its close association with Nike, but it is no less true. By doing and putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations we learn, we grow and we get better. The same holds true for organisations who are looking to become more innovative. With one third of listed companies at risk of delisting in the next five years and 75% of the S&P500 facing replacement by 2027, standing still is not an option.
When it comes to innovation in the enterprise there is no silver bullet that will work for all organisations. It is up to the innovation manager to take the concepts in this book and apply them in order to learn what works best for them.
This book will give the innovation manager what I think is best practice when it comes to innovation culture, ideation and idea contests, hackathons and innovation bootcamps, open innovation and crowdsourcing, prototyping and customer testing, business model development, disruptive, adjacent and incremental innovation, innovation teams, training staff, getting executive buy in, identifying and measuring innovation metrics, corporate incubation, startup investment and partnership and more.
However, results will vary across organisations. After all, organisations are made up of people and people are all unique and result in unique political structures and cultures. In addition, companies form part of a larger ecosystem, an industry, regulations and so on. Executives looking for a silver bullet may find just as much joy looking for the meaning of life.
So if you’re thinking about running an idea contest, flick through to page 63 to figure out what not to do and some tips on what best practice looks like. If you’re thinking about running a hackathon flick to page 49 and so on...
This is not meant to be a literary masterpiece. It is meant to give innovation managers the most value and guidance in as little time as possible on key mindsets, methods and tools that they should be exploring to help move their companies along the innovation capability curve.
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