"Innovation"​ – Just another catch phrase?

By Katrina Burke, Head of Consulting - Enterprise Solutions, Australia & NZ on

Right now, in IT land, I feel like I am playing digital transformation Bingo. Differentiation. Digital age. IoT. Replatform. Innovation. Bingo!

Of all the current jargon of the digital age, the word ‘innovation’ is the most over used. Thought leaders, CEOs, consultants and politicians, they all use it – ad infinitum. Innovation is held up as a panacea for almost every problem a business encounters. The only impediment being the perception that it requires great minds and deep pockets to achieve.

Seeing innovation in this forbidding light means many organisations don’t bother to attempt it. A simple reframing can be instructive. Firstly, innovation is not the solution to all business problems. And equally, it’s not overly hard to achieve and shouldn’t be seen as cost prohibitive. Put simply, innovation is less talking and more trying. In my view, innovation is all about bringing different ideas and thoughts together and contextualising them for a given problem.

These thoughts and ideas come from many sources. Reading is always instructive. What is happening in the technology world? What are thought leaders predicting? What are other businesses doing? What are other industries doing? Talking is always good. Ideas flow freely when you start sharing ideas and stacking them one on top of the other until a solution emerges. Innovation doesn’t have to be inventive or even new. Often, it is just taking someone else’s idea and repurposing it to deliver a new solution, or coupling it with other ideas – existing or new – to develop a new paradigm.

Another example of how to drive innovation was demonstrated by the Essendon AFL player and later coach of the Melbourne Football Club, Dean Baily, who encouraged his players to drive to training a different way each day. Our neural networks become fixed if we keep executing our actions in the same way. By driving to training a different way they were training their thought processes to look for alternatives, on the road or on the field. Equally in business you can innovate by challenging the current way you think about a problem.

Recently Oxygen, a DXC Technologies Company ran an ‘Innovation Summit’ within its enterprise solutions team. As the event grew closer and I did more reading, I started to cringe at that over used word ‘innovation’. What I wanted to achieve was to foster a new way of looking at our customers and how we approach their problems. The goal was to mention our disciple, ‘SAP’, as few times as possible. Over two days, we discussed and workshopped many digital age trends including, IoT, big data, crowd sourcing, augmented reality and cloud – to name a few. We also visited a talented business, Oceanic Solutions, that specialises in virtual reality solutions for customers very similar to our own.

The two days culminated in a ‘Design Thinking’ workshop focused on mining, banking and utilities. We broke into three teams and brainstormed industry challenges, pain points and the industry customer experience. We then thought about possible solutions to these pain points, harnessing SAP as the digital core. But we also considered the bigger picture: how technology can be used to create business opportunities. Finally, we played back our ideas to the other teams. They ranged from augmented reality in vehicle servicing, to big data in customer behaviour.

The results were extremely encouraging. We had struck upon some exciting, innovative ideas. At the outset of the summit I doubt anyone in the group would have confidently predicted they would be able to come up with a viable idea for a proof of concept that encompassed a broad range of industry, technology and process ideas. The interesting observation was that each and every team had a component of IoT, big data and augmented reality in their ideas. These were three key areas we had discussed and workshopped in the preceding sessions. When you share ideas, talk more and read more, an innovation platform beings to emerge. Innovation doesn’t require a pioneer who develops wild and imaginative solutions. It can be, but often for business, innovation arrives in the form of a small tweak to an existing process that can have large flow-on effects.

So how do you generate a culture of innovation? It’s not hard. Use the knowledge that exists within your organisation. Talk more, share more ideas and just start. Set up forums where your smart people can share problems and contribute ideas and perspectives. Don’t make innovation hard. Don’t see it as something done by others and not you or your business. Start small, but start.

For further information on how we can assist your organisation or facilitate a design thinking workshop please contact our advisory services team via the below form.