Riding the Next Wave of Innovation
by Tess Julian, CEO of Catalyst Exchange
Innovation might sound exciting to those few whose job it is to do it, but for the vast majority it’s a pretty meaningless word that has little relevance. It’s been cast as the future, but it’s a future which often seems to include only scientists, tech experts and entrepreneurs.
And that’s because for almost a decade that’s how it has been portrayed. Innovation policies have related to research grants, venture capital and start-ups.
But maybe that is changing.
A recent report, Skills and capabilities for Australian enterprise innovation (produced by ACOLA), demonstrated the shift in enterprise practices and the need for a new focus in policy. It describes the three generations of innovation thinking and policy, and shows why it seems remote to most people. According to the report:
- The first generation was all about linear processes, heroic individuals, products and technology. Research was the key, which explains why government policy focussed on R&D grants and universities.
- In the second generation there was a shift to the importance of collaboration and the development of innovation systems, teams and T-shaped leaders. Government policy focussed on developing science and technical skills, and creating industry clusters, strategies for STEM, coding and entrepreneurs.
- In this, the third generation, the importance of technical competency is acknowledged, but it is by no means the only priority. We live in a time of rapid and unpredictable change, and new ideas can come from many places and can relate to anything, beyond just tech and science. Organisations have to organise themselves so they can capture these good ideas, and develop and implement them. All employees need bundles of skills, which include the social, creative and adaptive. Organisations also need bundles of skills, which they can mix and match for purpose across the whole innovation cycle; they need marketing, business, communication and, of course, technology and technical skills. They need new ways to tap into these skills, to organise work, to connect and collaborate.
The third generation, in other words, is not about the elites, it’s about everyone contributing in their own way to finding and implementing good ideas for all or any part of an organisation or society.
Not only is this good for the agility of the organisation but it also pays in spades in terms of performance. Engaged employees who have some power over how they do their job contribute much more than merely satisfied employees. In a recent study by Bain & Company, it was found that:
"If satisfied employees are productive at an index level of 100, then engaged employees produce at 144, nearly half again as much. But then comes the real kicker: inspired employees score 225 on this scale. From a purely quantitative perspective, in other words, it would take two and a quarter satisfied employees to generate the same output as one inspired employee.”
At Catalyst Exchange we recognised this after years of working with many of Australia’s leading companies. That’s why we developed The Catalyst Approach to help organisations make innovating a reality for every employee, whether it's coming up with ideas, helping others implement solutions, adapting to new processes, learning new skills, sharing knowledge and insights, and so on. We’ve got the evidence that it works—not only does is yield real dollar value, but it also changes the way employees talk and feel about innovation. They can see why it’s important in their lives and careers.
We’ve written a white paper to explain how The Catalyst Approach works… A Guide to Changing the Innovation Environment in your Organisation. Please take a look and give us a call if you think it might help make innovation meaningful for your employees.