Catalyst Exchange: An Innovation in Innovation
by Tess Julian, CEO of Catalyst Exchange
As specialists in innovation we show clients how to realise ideas using our design and innovation process—See Think Do.
To show that we practice what we preach, I’ve sketched out how we’ve used the process to move from insight to action to create our new company, Catalyst Exchange.
Allan Ryan, Executive Director of Hargraves Institute, in the course of helping member companies address their innovation needs, found that more and more leaders wanted ways to engage all staff, especially those who are closest to the process and to the customer. He therefore assisted organisations to set up systems for recognising innovators, from the very smallest to the largest, as a way of motivating individuals to contribute.
With the support of the Hargraves Institute Advisory Council, he determined to take what he’d learned from these organisations to market—to non-member companies—by creating a universal recognition framework.
Meanwhile, I was working in the area of organisational and open innovation and had observed that there was as much a need to connect within organisations as there was to connect between them. I realised that no matter how clever or how creative the individual employees are, without a culture that connects people, insights, programs and ideas, innovative behaviours simply don’t stick.
We formed a collaboration facilitated by Innovation & Business Skills Australia (IBSA) to use the latest research, and leading practice in design and innovation to develop a solution that linked these two insights.
Our challenge question was:
How can we build an approach to innovation that engages all staff and builds connections to make the best use of the internal resources and capability?
With some funding from IBSA and many hours of discussion and brainstorming, the team (which grew to include a host of advisors and friends) generated ideas about what might work. At first it was all about recognition, then innovators and then leaders.
However, what finally emerged was another role and a new element—the catalyst—the person who is the first listener, the champion, the connector and the engager.
Our breakthrough idea came when we realised that in order to build a culture of innovation the key is the catalyst who connects and engages. All of the other elements—creativity training, ideas management, design thinking teams and innovation managers—are important enablers, but without grass roots champions and connectors, innovation won’t catch on.
So we developed a concept, using ideas validated by the latest evidence available, and then took it to clients to test the market. We provided training and advice about developing catalysts to a range of organisations, such as Essential Energy, Baxter Healthcare and Box Hill TAFE. Out of these experiences, combined with a wealth of research and experience, we arrived at a comprehensive platform that can become part of the way any organisation works. The key elements are:
- An internal network to connect catalysts across organisations
- Visible and active leadership support through an innovation council
- Training in skills to be a catalyst
- An ideas management system
- A process and tools for thinking through ideas
- Skills and formal qualifications
- Access to external expertise to get fresh thinking and advice
- And, importantly, a framework for recognising innovators at all levels, in all functions and in all areas.
All of these elements are packaged into The Catalyst Approach, Catalyst Connect, our Innovator Recognition Program™ (IRP™) and a professional development community for catalysts. We have now started working with our clients including Mid North Coast Local Health District, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions, the printing industry, and the food and agriculture industries to implement the framework.
Our major action was to spin out a company from the Hargraves Institute to roll out this suite of services: Catalyst Exchange Pty Ltd.
It’s taken time, and a lot of collaboration, but we know that because we have used all the behaviours, tools and skills that innovating demands, we’ve got a solution that works and that can work for you.
Of course, the future is going to continue to challenge us and we’ll keep on innovating and adding new things, introducing new technologies and providing new services.
I hope you’ll become part of Catalyst Exchange and join us in establishing the only universal industry certification framework for innovators, and a proven way to build employee-based innovation in organisations.