22/02/2021 - 13:01

Stimulating innovation for a more prosperous state

22/02/2021 - 13:01

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It’s easy to think ‘R&D’ and ‘high-tech gadgets’ when hearing the word innovation, but in reality, innovation is a process for eliciting all forms of ideas and rapidly identifying those which will deliver real value.  This is best bred when entire organisations and a mix of departments are engag

It’s easy to think ‘R&D’ and ‘high-tech gadgets’ when hearing the word innovation, but in reality, innovation is a process for eliciting all forms of ideas and rapidly identifying those which will deliver real value.  This is best bred when entire organisations and a mix of departments are engaged in the process.

COVID-19 hit all businesses hard. But if it’s shown us one thing, it’s how adaptable we can be to change when drawing on the ability to innovate and engaging a free-flowing top-down, bottom-up approach.

Business models were re-written on the fly, large-scale processes were implemented in days rather than years and resources were deployed remotely.

Much of that adaptability and innovative thinking opened up when structural limitations were lowered, and the organisational culture encouraged diverse perspectives and lateral thinking from its people.

David Lynch, a director with consulting firm Churchill, recalled an example of top-down innovation during the recent COVID crisis. The North East of WA, specifically Kununurra, had faced major disruption due to COVID and was suffering significantly from a lack of tourism in the area.

“We did some scenario planning work for Horizon Power and out of that we established their goal to create positive change within regional WA,” he said.

“We then engaged Tourism WA and Water Corp, and with Horizon Power arrived at the concept Save Our Season (SOS).”

SOS resulted in over 80 WA executives flying to Kununurra (self-funded), where they stayed for two days to learn about the activities and attractions available in the region, before returning to promote their findings to their organisations, representing over 200,000 staff in total.

Mr Lynch said SOS was fundamentally linked to the Churchill purpose to build a more vibrant and prosperous WA. Churchill drew upon its purpose, along with diverse perspectives, to arrive at the innovative campaign, which was turned around in just 30 days.

Using Nectir to inspire bottom-up innovation

As disjointed working environments become increasingly normal, it’s important to ensure organisational objectives remain aligned and staff stay connected with open communication channels.

Mr Lynch said Churchill had partnered with the innovation software platform, Nectir, to achieve just that. 

Nectir encourages organisations to approach innovation as a collective by sharing ideas put forward by staff, at any level, and evaluating their strategic alignment to business goals. 

“Nectir is essentially the democratisation of good ideas in a business because everyone has access to the tools, so it inherently starts to drive some of that bottom-up change,” Mr Lynch said.

“When we talk about top-down and bottom-up innovation, the top-down approach is about ensuring the organisation shares unified goals and objectives, while enabling staff to put ideas forward in a way that gets shared through to the top and has impact.”

With built-in social and behavioural rewards and the ability to incentivise performance, the platform in some ways ‘gamifies’ innovation and draws on features from social platforms to stimulate and excite the creative process.

“It’s really about the people and giving them the confidence to step into that element and put themselves out there in a social space,” he said.

Diverse perspectives are vital to a well-rounded innovation plan, but without clear objectives or priorities, it’s easy to lose focus.

Mr Lynch said one of the requirements of setting up challenges within Nectir’s innovation platform was to set objectives.

“Those challenges must align then to the strategy and strategic objectives of the business, which also helps to reinforce the organisational strategy in ways that are operational.”

Ideas through to action

Churchill not only deploys the platform, but it also works closely with businesses to ensure they take those ideas coming out of it through to the next phase.

Churchill senior manager Lincoln Elliot said Churchill had a standardised framework for running innovation programs, which was tailored to fit each individual organisation. 

“We start by setting the innovation strategy in line with the overall organisational strategy,” he said.

“We’ll then run sessions with selected members of leadership. The process changes for every business, but the general concept is we help them to align their goals and understand what they want to achieve.”

After defining the challenge points for the organisation, the period of innovative thinking will take place over the course of several weeks before selected concepts move forward to the shark tank phase to determine their potential for funding.

“Then moving that idea through, we’ll come up with ways to deploy initiative programs through the business and ensure the strategy supporting that is considered,” Mr Elliot said.

While the concept of innovation is nothing new, Churchill are finding different ways to inspire diverse thinking and effective innovation that is fit for each organisation.

Churchill believe investing in these new methodologies aimed at stimulating innovation within the state is fundamental to fulfilling its purpose, which is to build a more vibrant and prosperous WA.

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