You can’t win by only being compliant: Cohesion and dissent is your secret sauce

5 years ago
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“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter Drucker

As an innovation network that focuses on improving consumer-centricity in the age services industry, the recent interest in the ‘customer’ and customer experience falls right into innovAGEING’s sweet-spot.

In the Aged Care Quality Standards starting from 1 July 2019, all eight new Standards have a customer-focused element, emphasising the importance of people, not just the technology.

Any topically relevant age services forum or conference currently fills its speaker slots with presentations on customer experience, consumer confidence, complaints and feedback, consumer choice, and the list goes on.

This holistic take on innovation is much welcomed, and the implementation of the new Standards as the catalyst for this is positive.

However, as an industry, it would be wrong to conclude that being compliant naturally will lead to commercially viable age service businesses. After all, compliance merely gives you the ability to compete in the market, it’s not an automatic right to win in the market.

To invoke Peter Drucker again:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

We invoke words like innovation and disruption to articulate our means to compete. And within this thinking, when you ask executives and managers what’s holding their organisations back, the response is usually a lack of new ideas, and the need to be creative.

Yet, take part in a brainstorming session, or a design thinking workshop, and it’s clear that good ideas and creativity are not in short supply. What seems to be truly lacking is the ability to execute those ideas.

This speaks to meta-innovation challenges, which may inhibit organisations to change, and move with the times—especially in long-tail established industries like ours.

Chief Talent Scientist at Manpower Group, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, notes the following innovation hurdles:

  • Fear of change, where the aim is to make the environment as stable and familiar as possible, and where to adapt involves trying to make the world more familiar.
  • Failure to build teams, where there is a tendency to maintain a flawed view where innovation is the result of creative superstars, as opposed to coordinated team effort.
  • Complacency, where organisations become satisfiedwith their success, and focus not on generating new value, but preserving their success, and contributing factors of that success.
  • Ineffective leadership, where leaders within an organisation lack the strategy and ability to turn ideas into action.

Essentially, this isn’t about doing innovative things, but setting up the vital conditions that allow organisations to take ideas and turn these into innovative products, services, and businesses.

Recently at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s hearing, Group Homes Australia, Brightwater Care Group and Glenview provided evidence of the power of innovation—to which Commissioner Richard Tracey AM RFD QC commented with the following:

“We have heard a lot of challenging stories in nursing homes. I must say, it has been refreshing to hear how a bit of innovative thinking can produce good outcomes.”

Innovation in the age services industry is important, and innovating along the lines of being more consumer-centred is a commercial angle worth pursuing. Yet, what needs to be highlighted here is that:

Innovation and commercial success is about value creation, and must be above-and-beyond being compliant.
Creating original and innovative ideas is something that most people are able to do, and this isn’t a skill reserved to a rare breed of creative thinkers.
It’s contingent on organisational leaders to create the right environment for nonconformity, and original thinking.

Disregarding this, focusing on consumers purely at a compliance level, we run the risk of an industry with a homogenous set of consumer initiatives and experiences across the industry.

To stop doing something the old way, is never easy. And one would not be controversial in stating that the age services industry is a tough gig.

Yet this is worth reframing, sometimes innovating in our industry is difficult not because we’re failing, it could be because we’re trying to do things right.

To quote Wharton Business School Organisational Psychologist, Adam Grant: “If at first you don’t succeed, you’ll know you’re aiming high enough.”

Merlin Kong
Head of innovAGEING