The Four Must Haves For Innovation


Ben Sorensen - Business Development and Commercialisation Manager at the CSIRO’s offshoot, Data61 – knows that for innovation to fulfil its potential, there are four elements that must be aligned. Meshing purpose, leadership, strategy and culture is the way to new value creation. 

Must Have #1:  Clearly articulated purpose

  • All innovation activity must be based on a valid purpose - the conscious choice of where you're playing, and your approach, so that you secure the desired outcomes.
  • Thriving organisations are customer-centric, aiming to solve problems and create better value for customers than your competition. 
  • The vital questions are: What is our reason for existence? What outcomes do our customers want? If we did one thing really well, what would/should it be? How do we need to do it in a way that’s different and superior to our competitors’?    

Must Have #2:  Leadership is every individual’s responsibility

  • The focus of great leadership is on motivating and defining the shared purpose. It’s about setting a very clear ‘what’, and trusting others to figure out the ‘how’ - senior executives articulate the conditions that empower the excellence of their teams. 
  • Motivated by a clear direction, every individual can and must play their own part as leader – irrespective of whether they’re at the top or the bottom of the organisation - to confidently determine the best way to deliver improvements.
  • Leadership is also the ability to ask the right questions, those that focus scarce resources – time, budget and people – beyond tactical responses to problems and towards identifying ideas with potential. 

Must Have #3:  Strategy to shape the environment in your favour

  • The best organisations take a linear, analytical approach to strategy while embracing the idea that the status quo doesn’t extend into the future.
  • They systematically look for gaps in the market that will open new competitive advantage.
  • Winners seek new perspectives, rather than just aligning their strengths against competitor strengths.

Must Have #4:  Culture is the force multiplier

  • The cultural focus should be to empower, encourage and enable excellence. Achieving the right setting here is the hardest of the four elements to secure.
  • You can only have impact in the world and success in any mission if the culture nurtures the skills and benefits of collaboration.
  • Great organisations bake innovation behaviours into the culture by setting them as expectations. Giving ‘permission’ isn’t enough as it only gets involvement, not commitment. Teams that are committed to each other and achieving a shared purpose outperform those that aren’t.
  •  Importantly, cultural alignment with vision, strategy and purpose attracts the most accomplished talent.

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