Business shunning innovation? Surely not!


This story appeared in The Age business section on Monday, highlighting statistics which reveal a decline in the pace of innovation in Australia. I was asked to comment on some of the reasons as to why this has occurred; after getting over my immediate shock, that is.

I find it staggering that just 39.1% of business in Australia engaged in any form of innovative activity in the 2010-11 financial year (down 4.7%). Stagnation! (for want of a creative expletive)

How can a country like ours, full of talented inventors, ideologists and leaders fail to realise the importance on innovation as a platform for evolution?

NeoCogs has recently completed a small business innovation program for businesses in the Moonee Valley region and has also completed work with a number of larger organisations, so recent experience was useful when pondering for answers.

What is the barrier to innovation in businesses?

Short answer is nothing! "Resources (and time)" is the answer most frequently given. Most businesses are still trying to grapple with the daily tasks that overwhelm them at times. It is often seen as an expensive and time consuming distraction to take on innovative projects. It's a perception thing. It needn't be that way. What does it really cost to start something?

Strategy = Aims Means. Entrepreneurship is about managing this equation, be it large or small. We need more entrepreneurship injected into our traditional business structures and the entrepreneurs need to be identified and encouraged. (see this post from May for case-in-point)

How much does this hold back the economy?

From my experience the perception that you need vast resources to innovate, limits idea development and collaboration. Given that the outcome from this is lack of idea commercialisation, I'd say enormously.

What should companies, especially small businesses, be thinking about in regards to boosting their innovation?

Firstly, a clear idea of "what we really do". Then, "what simple tools and frameworks can we instil into the business in order to encourage and evaluate ideas?"

If we know which ideas are more likely to fly and most importantly, which ones will add to our overall strategic direction and vision, we can begin to see how important they are to our existence as a viable business.

If we know "what we do", we can keep asking "how else can we do what we do?", which is like switching on a tap for innovation.

Why is innovation important?

Innovation is evolution. Without it, we become stagnant and focus too much on the past. To innovate is to venture into the unknown and from there we can create the future.

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