Why we need to change the way we think about innovation

Many businesses and entrepreneurs face innovation challenges using the most common model of entrepreneurship. How can we change the way we think about innovation to address these challenges, and leverage the current climate to inspire new ways of doing things?

As part of a webinar series called Thriving in the Decade of Disruption, UQ Business School Entrepreneur in Residence Cameron Turner interviews ground-breaking entrepreneurs and innovators to discuss how everyone can utilise entrepreneurial skills to thrive.

Leanne Kemp is an internationally recognised innovator and leader. First appointed in 2018 as the first female Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, she is also the founder and CEO of Everledger, a company that uses Blockchain technology to increase transparency in tracking high-value assets such as diamonds, art and wine.

Listen to the full webinar with Leanne Kemp and Cameron Turner.

Why do we need to change the current model of entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship has the potential to offer value, but there haven’t been a lot of successes in Australia to date using the current model, based on the Silicon Valley model of entrepreneurship.

Everyone around the world has been trying to create a Silicon Valley for the last 20 years but, with only a few exceptions, no one has been able to do it. So, we need a new model, and some new ways of working.

We often easily understand when, what and why we need to innovate. The challenge is often how to do it successfully.

On one side of the fence is conventional, strategic logic, and business as usual practices. On the other side of the fence is the successful entrepreneurs who use innovation logic. The emphasis on experimentation that comes with this way of thinking is important for progress, but the typical way of achieving it by coming in guns blazing to disrupt existing practices isn’t the most successful way to do things either. It’s by using the best of both ways of thinking that we can open up the opportunity for new partnerships to be created and companies to co-evolve.



How can we leverage the current climate to inspire innovation?

What we’ve seen during COVID-19 has been a lot of knee-jerk reactions, largely because we're still primarily focused on retaining jobs rather than creating value. 

Rather than trying to bring jobs that we’ve lost back, we should be rethinking the way we do things across industries, because maybe there's an entirely new set of jobs that can be created that would have higher value to citizens and to the economy. We’re stuck worrying about our return based on time and value rather than what could actually be possible if we started with a blank canvas.

In short, we’re still looking at COVID as a challenge and a problem to be solved, not as a trampoline of change.

business innovation

common innovation mistakes

What are some common innovation mistakes entrepreneurs and businesses make?

The mistake many entrepreneurs make is that they solve the wrong problem. They've got an innovative idea, but they actually haven't spent enough time doing their research to understand the problem.

Similarly, I think businesses struggle when they've already got a solution and they're fixed on making existing practices more efficient rather than focusing on growth. If they actually took the time to understand the problem, they’d be able to come up with a solution that solves that problem better than anything else.

That’s why if entrepreneurs can solve problems for them, the likelihood of them embracing the solution is so much higher.

How can businesses be more innovative?

Innovation is a complex beast and should be at the forefront of everything we do. But currently, it’s like a butler service where the bell gets rung only when there’s a challenge to be solved or a problem to be isolated.

Companies and leaders have to manage both what is needed right now, but also what is needed in the future, to succeed.

While you’ll hear Mark Zuckerberg and the like talk about the importance of failure and experimentation to innovation, for businesses that don’t have the ability to be agile built into their DNA, failure is a luxury.

CEOs have to protect their employees, the organisational structure and their profit margins and as a result, don’t have a huge risk appetite. Another common trend is that successful companies that may have been innovative in the beginning lose their risk appetite and desire to change and innovate once they get to a certain stage of development.

One solution to this lethargy of action is for companies to work together and play to each other’s strengths to find innovative solutions to problems.

Another solution is to ensure every corporate business and government organisation has a chief entrepreneur.

Someone who doesn't answer to the CEO but sits beside them and answers to the same board. Their role should be to challenge the norm and champion change to transform existing practices.

How do you convince a company and those involved to change?

Entrepreneurs and innovators need to improve how they talk about their value in assisting established businesses to initiate change. 

For example, it’s much too confronting to talk about how we can initiate a disruptive change. Instead, introduce innovation as an evolution or transitional journey that you can help them along. 

We also have to make sure that the advantage of changing exceeds the risk or the disadvantage of not changing.

Use new technologies like AI or data analysis to help them understand the problem they've got, and the opportunity they're missing out on. Then, integrate your offer or solution into their business model so it makes sense for them to get involved. For example, rather than trying to sell them your offer by saying “you should do this new thing that you're not doing now”, explain “we're trying this new thing and if we partner with you, we can do a whole heap more of it and solve problems as well as unlock new value for you and your company.”

Are you ready to create change?

Learn how to develop and harness your own innovation skills by studying a Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation.