Innovation, like Beyonce and chocolate cake, is one of those things everyone wants a slice of. We have spoken about it before - innovation is oft mentioned, lauded and praised but perhaps less diligently actioned in our organisations. That is why when the invite for the launch of Big I little i appeared in my inbox I was more than a little intrigued. While every day we see people spinning up new innovative approaches, ideas or iterations at a startup level - The Big I little i report is all about tackling the wicked problems of innovation in large New Zealand organisations. The learnings within the piece have been informed by interviewing 44 CEO’s of New Zealand’s biggest companies and most successful startups.
And it was these people that filled the room at the launch of Big I little i where the report's author, James Hurman from Previously Unavailable cut to the chase. The situation is not as rosy as we would probably like to think, because “while 81% of New Zealand CEOs rate innovation as an 8 out of 10 or higher regarding the importance, just 7% give their organisations an 8 or higher when asked to rate their innovation performance.
Hurman explained that innovation is broken into two groups ‘little i’ innovation - internally focused and framed around iteration and improvement. And ‘Big I’ innovation, about creating new customer offerings that open up market growth and development. Whist ‘little i’ innovation is alive and well, it turns out ‘Big I’ innovation is actually in decline.
While big companies are struggling to get these new offerings to market; customers are more discerning than ever. With tastes shaped by frequent and quality interactions with the likes of Uber, Google and Amazon, New Zealanders may be spending more time in their week with the ‘big dogs’ based offshore than local businesses.
James Hurman and his team had seen this happening first hand. Witnessing how challenging larger organisations would find innovation projects although the desire to innovate was already present. They saw changes in consumer behaviour, and the drivers for this. Being a rather well-read bunch they knew that in 2010, a global survey of 2,240 executives on the topic of innovation found 84% rated innovation as ‘extremely or very important to their companies’ growth’, but only 6% said they were satisfied with their innovation efforts to date. With the belief that New Zealand could lead innovation worldwide, they (in association with ATEED) set out to talk innovation and to share what they learnt with the community at large.
How can New Zealand up our Innovation game?
With a focus on practical ways to improve innovation outcomes, James and his team has identified five key areas to focus on.
1. PROACTIVELY COUNTER THE ORGANISATIONAL ANTI-BODIES
Beyond embracing a culture of innovation, James implores organisations to actively create innovative environments by acknowledging the naysaying, de-prioritising, loud voices of dissent and plan to counter them from the outset.
2. CREATE A GREATER SENSE OF URGENCY AND SET MORE AMBITIOUS DEADLINES
A real commitment to innovation means prioritising it, setting deadlines for it and creating urgency around it.
3. PROTOTYPE AND VALIDATE TO PRIORITISE
Embracing the experimental, fail fast ideas those in startup know so well - James suggests not every new idea needs a giant business case and three years of research to back it up.
4. ASSIGN RESPONSIBILITY FOR ‘BIG I’ INNOVATION TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Making sure you have the right people at the table is always going to lead to a great result. As such, identifying the talent in your team that have ideas and can work with agility to achieve them is key
5. LESSEN OUR DEPENDENCY ON CONSENSUS
Getting everyone on board is a challenge, because smaller agile project teams with permission to execute will move projects along faster.
James also mentioned that of the 44 CEOS interviewed only five were women, and that was where the diversity largely ended. James started the conversation here, pointing out that “the CEO community was very white and very male” and that something had to be done to address this. Diversity breeds innovation after all.
Sounds intriguing? The full report is available for free online, so head over to the Big I little i website to see more detail on the thoughts above, and gain more insights direct from the mouths of the CEO’s involved. Perhaps by the next time James pens his report, we will be doing less talking about innovation and more doing.
Anya is the brand wrangler at GridAKL, you can follow her on twitter here