Sonja Bernhardt, CEO of Thoughtware, an IT company specialising in human resources services, and software development
Robert Dew, founder of consulting firm Coriolis and innovation lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology
Rowan Gilmore, CEO of the Australian Institute for Commercialisation (AIC)
Roger La Salle, creator of the La Salle Matrix Thinking method and author of several books on innovation, including Think Again: Innovate Your Processes and Harvest the Untouched Wealth
Lyndal Thorburn, managing director of Innovation Dynamics, a technology advisory firm
Robert Dew: There needs to be recognition to innovate, a recognition that it’s worth it and almost a business’ only option.
Roger La Salle: All companies need to be a moving target. They need to constantly innovate their products, processes and services to give their customers a better offering to move them to a better place.
Lead on innovation
Sonja Bernhardt: The CEO of a business sets the tone. Leaders and managers should display both innovation and an appreciation of innovation in others.
Rowan Gilmore: Ensure the buy-in of company leadership. The AIC works with a number of companies wishing to innovate, but it takes committed leadership not to fall by the wayside! The board needs to have innovation firmly on its agenda.
Roger La Salle: It has to come from the top. A senior manager has to have key performance indicators so that innovation progresses, otherwise it won’t happen.
Create a culture of innovation
Rowan Gilmore: [Businesses require] a culture where it is acceptable for staff to try things in new ways, and where employees feel safe in pursuing innovation.
Roger La Salle: The process needs to be systematic and able to be embraced by people at all levels of the organisation. It it’s too airy-fairy or complex, they’re going to think it’s a joke.
Robert Dew: Make sure there is an environment where innovation is properly resourced–the time to innovate, a budget that can be invested in innovation, expert availability, help with implementation and someone who will help with getting innovation accepted within the organisation.
Rowan Gilmore: Assign the most viable ideas a budget and resources for further investigation and development. Actively project-manage the development process to ensure this ‘commercialisation’ phase is successful.
Sonja Bernhardt: [Businesses should employ] genuine brainstorming activities where thoughts are not rejected as soon as they appear but captured, explored, expanded on, and valued for later analysis.
Rowan Gilmore: Formally capture ideas from staff, customers and suppliers, and external collaborators such as research organisations. Continuously review those ideas along axes of technical, financial, and market risk.
Lyndal Thorburn: I’d recommend regular whole-company meetings that address progress and provide input to development of new product/service concepts. There need to be internal systems so that ideas can be proposed by staff and considered within company strategy.