It's Cool. But So What?: Getting Back To Basics On Innovation

7 years ago
innovAGEING > Media + Blog > Blog > It’s Cool. But So What?: Getting Back To Basics On Innovation
Category: Blog

The present landscape in the age care industry is fast changing. The innovation imperative to find game-changing intersections between what older Australians want, and your company’s strategy, capabilities, and assets are now all too important in order to remain commercially sustainable.

We’re in the midst of industry disruption similar to earlier government-driven reform initiatives in the United Kingdom (UK) and New Zealand. According to KPMG, these saw over 50 per cent of the UK market share shift from not-for-profit to for-profit providers, and incumbent New Zealand providers reported losing up to 30 per cent of their clients to new entrants.

Essentially, we need a new discourse on what ageing means, and the new service paradigms that should emerge from this. It makes for an exciting time to explore how change in our industry can eliminate isolation among seniors, foster inclusive built environments, and create functioning intergenerational communities.

However, these reform changes have the potential to up-end how we as an industry understand business-as-usual to be. As the futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson puts it: Change doesn’t care whether you like it or not. It will always happen without your permission.

In thinking about innovation and in delivering new initiatives to market, industry incumbents need to be clear on whether they want to—metaphorically speaking—reshape the solid to fit the liquid of creativity, or get the liquid to reshape the contours of the solid.

If you want to know why so many innovation projects fail, it’s because liquids cannot reshape solids, at least not quickly. As innovation expert, Mark Payne, noted, it’s all fine and well that limestone stalactites can take up to 190,000 years to form—boards, investors, and governments will not (and cannot) wait that long.

Impactful new insights can often come from people who do not know what has been, or cannot be done. Being at the receiving end of this requires a mindset that can suspend (or at least defer) conventional industry judgement.

Being open and curious allows us to recognise patterns, and find connections across what seems like unrelated systems. This is an acquired skill, and the following guidelines may help:

  • Get people from other functions or new hires to solve problems that you don’t ‘know’ the answer to or cannot solve. 
  • Look at how other industries solve analogous problems that you’re facing.
  • If people whom you think have the ‘right’ skills cannot find a solution, give those with the ‘wrong’ skills a go.
  • In the early stages of a project, clean slate how you would approach the problem, and don’t worry about how things have been done in the past.

When paired with the rigid realities of the business world, successful innovation is in fact a bringing together of new ideas with the ability to implement. This should be familiar territory, ask yourself:

  • How much will it cost, and how will we finance this?
  • How can we make this happen, and how long will it take?
  • How will it meet regulations?
  • How will it bring in the intended financial returns?
  • How will it make our organisation more competitive?
  • How do we share the benefits across the organisation?
  • How will this add value to older Australians, and their families?

This is about having a clear understanding of the ‘how’ in the ‘wow’ of your new business idea. The lesson here is that getting others excited by a new idea or service is not as hard as getting an organisation to do something it has never done before.

The present call to innovation within our industry requires creativity, coupled with an equal dose of delivery pragmatism. Failing this, we run the risk of saying ‘yes’ to innovation, but doing ‘no’.