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"One of the hardest
things to do is keep innovation simple"
04 November, 2020

This week we catch up with Matt Gooden, a Strategy and Innovation Leader who has worked with organisations around the world to achieve business outcomes through intelligent technology solutions.

Matt is passionate about driving innovation and smarter ways of doing business, keeping it simple, relevant, and adding value and, connecting and enabling people. We warmly welcome his valuable insight into innovation, particularly in this post-COVID landscape.

Q. What is the best way to keep innovation simple?

A.One of the hardest things to do is keep innovation simple. I’ve been in too many workshops where ideas are flowing, and concepts get bigger and more complex. Everyone is excited but by the end of the session we end up with an amazing concept which is difficult to deliver, the problem space is blurry and the business impact (value) is not quantified.

An innovation process needs to be grounded in some basic (and somewhat boring) fundamentals. Three principles I use to help contain good innovation intentions are as follows:

  1. What is the problem? Without a defined problem, do we need a solution?
  2. What is the value of solving the problem? The problem may not represent a feasible ROI compared to the effort to solve or compared to other problem areas. Who will benefit from the value of solving the problem?
  3. Action oriented – Innovation without execution is fascinating but does not pay the bills

Q. Where do most businesses struggle when it comes to turning ideas into innovative outcomes?

A. Smaller businesses and start-ups typically innovate better than larger corporates. Compelling events and financial drivers force change, enabled by simpler management structures and decision-making processes. Those that don’t pivot or evolve, simply don’t survive.

What I have seen in large corporates is innovation being high jacked by programs which are focused on supporting existing capabilities and revenue streams.

Previously I managed an Innovation Program for a large enterprise which canvassed the workforce for ideas on how to improve the business. We were inundated with ideas, some good and some bad, but overall, the enthusiasm was contagious. However, the process for evaluation and resourcing to execute approved ideas were funnelled back to key executives.

The majority of the ideas that were ultimately approved were put on the backlog for the internal delivery team to work through. The originators of the ideas were not involved with the execution. Furthermore, the backlog was constantly re-prioritised and ultimately the ideas went into a black hole with no visibility of execution or measuring business impact.

With that in mind, I believe the essential key elements for an impactful innovation culture are as follows:

  • Endorsement and sponsorship – organisations need to give people permission to innovate and a senior executive need to promote it
  • Space – staff need time and space to dedicate to ideation, creativity, and problem solving. It’s hard to have an a-ha moment when you are working 70 hours a week!
  • Direction – Management need to provide guidance to employees to focus efforts in the right areas for business value
  • Platform – this one is a bit more prescriptive. I personally believe that choosing a stack is key to enabling individuals and enterprises for exploration and execution of new ideas. Allowing staff to develop on a variety of platforms makes it hard to implement and there is also a sustainability aspect with management of technology debt. Conversely, if you choose a bespoke and narrow technology set, you may constrain creativity.

Q. What do you anticipate will the biggest challenge for businesses in the post COVID economy?

A. Understanding where the money will be and when. Businesses are looking into the immediate future and are unsure of what the markets are going to do in response to government policy imposed on businesses and citizens. Normal market analysis to understand market values are thrown out of the window.

However, this presents opportunities for those that understand the lead indicators for new markets and have the ability to respond with speed to realign to new markets conditions both scaling up and downsizing.

Q. What will be the biggest opportunities for businesses in the post COVID economy?

A. COVID has provided a compelling event for many businesses to re-assess what their business really is, and also to look at efficiencies in delivering goods and services to their customers. Business that adopt an agile mindset and ability to respond to evolving market conditions will prosper.

Q. What is one thing anyone can do in any business to be more innovative?

A. Empathy and understanding are two key words that often get overlooked by businesses when servicing clients. We tend to lead with “inside out” thinking, engaging with our clients the way we want to do business, not how customers want to consume services. Flipping to an “outside in” mindset will put the customer’s perspective first and highlight opportunities where the business processes, goods or services need to evolve to create an excellent customer experience.

This mindset can also be applied internally. Understanding how you service your colleagues and what they need to be successful, can identify opportunities to improve business processes, reduce cost, speed up customer service and drive innovation.