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Does innovation only lie within the tech space? 

Tech innovation is often in the media headlines as we see industries adapting to new technologies and moving their processes towards digitalisation. We’re often discussing the question of whether businesses will embrace technology innovation or not, and what the repercussions might be of choosing either option.

It’s easy to associate innovation with technology, as we continually see new inventions and personally experience the way these inventions influence and change our ways of living. From video, to DVD, to streaming – as an example.

However, today in our Let’s Talk Forum we want to push the boundaries farther than technology and look at innovation in other areas. We are stripping it back to what innovation itself means, and have asked experts in the space to share their thoughts on answering the above question. So what do they think – and what do you think – about the idea of innovation only lying in tech space?


Mac Ghani, General Manager, Avanade Australia

Innovation is not always about technology – it is about change and adopting a new solution to an old problem. Everyone and every industry can innovate.

To foster innovation organisations should take a closer look at their culture and employee experience. For example, traditional corporate hierarchies were designed to minimise risk and may have been effective in the past; but that is no longer the case in this age of disruption. To facilitate innovation, businesses need to be agile and be able to adapt to a swifter pace of change.  The workplace needs to enable collaboration where interactions across teams expose employees to fresh ideas and bold perspectives.

Building a broader culture of agility and innovation starts at the top and requires leadership commitment. When you have the right commitment, culture and collaboration, innovation becomes pervasive across all levels functions within an organisation.


Lee Gale, Managing Director at ANZ at Unit4

In today’s world where agile, scalable, adaptable solutions are mandatory, organisations that are still stuck in the past with the mojo “one size fits all” are set to fail. Today’s organisations face a more complex and dynamic environment than ever before. The digital revolution has unleashed a tremendous wave of innovation, and new service-based business models are set to transform if they want to keep up with new customer expectations

In fact, the old-style enterprise systems are becoming a thing of the past as innovation has enhanced the solutions that provide applications, aiming to address current and future challenges and priorities. But most importantly, they are designed to mould with businesses’ main asset, their people.

With new competitors and rising customer expectations, innovation is driving a new force of change, with organisations requiring people-centric enterprise solutions that provide the appropriate tools to communicate, plan and solve problems. For instance, Artificial Intelligence is a key area of innovation. Chatbots are here to assist and support people rather than replace them. Thanks to innovation, these enterprise digital assistants allow users to automate, prioritise and complete tasks in a fraction of the time and are interactive with a personal touch. In addition, digital assistants can take care of basic tasks, enabling employees to focus more on added value tasks where they really make a difference. For example, chatbots can work with students and universities to radically change the customer experience students get when enrolling to university programs and courses.

Creating a work environment such as this encourages a highly diverse, effective and efficient workforce, delivering a self-driving, assistive and conversational user experience which every organisation should strive to achieve. By investing in innovation, organisations can unleash endless opportunities to make them more productive, customer-centric and efficient. Incorporating AI and self-driving technology, for example, will allow organisations to adapt to new opportunities faster, cheaper and without the usual disruptions.

Ultimately, this is the era when many jobs are being automated, however, more jobs will be created in new, high technology driven industries. Therefore, embracing innovation is not a choice, it is a necessity.


Evette Cordy, Co-founder and Chief Investigator at Agents of Spring

Innovation activity is highest in the tech space, according to the 2016-2017 Australian Bureau of Statistics data. This innovation activity included new goods and/or services, operational processes, organisational/managerial processesand marketing methods.While technology is often an enabler for innovation in other industries, it’s not the only source of innovation. Innovation comes from all sectors. The tech space is rapidly evolving, making it an attractive industry for start-ups and investors. However, to thrive in an increasingly complex and unpredictable new world, organisations need to innovate.  Innovation is not only possible in other sectors – it is a necessity.


Diana Palmer, Executive Officer, IDEAS

Technology definitely enables innovation. We see it in the disability sector where new technology, like AI assistants that provide un-biased recording of meetings, has significantly improved the lives of a lot of people.

However, innovation is not defined by technology – it also exists in the way you serve. For example, with the way we deliver our service and spread information, we have innovated in the form of the Power Blog. This platform approaches empowerment in a new way. It gives a voice to the usually unheard and allows them to speak their truth and be rewarded for it.

That is a key example of innovation in the form of engaging on a human level, rather than just relying on technology to create a solution. While we are appreciative of the leaps and bounds technology makes in improving quality of life, we must be mindful that there is so much more to it.


Rudy Crous, CEO at Shortlyster

When we think about innovation we tend to think about inventing something new – predominately some new technology. However, innovation simply means coming up with a different or better way of doing things. To remain relevant in our rapidly changing world, organisations now more than ever need to innovate and adapt to how they do business. Therefore, innovation is applicable across any industry and in any work field.

Many organisations try to keep ahead of the curve by focussing on narrowly defined technology and product innovation. The issue is that an ever-shortening product life cycle and increased competition means that these innovations only create short-term value. What creates far more reaching and sustained competitive advantage are businesses that adapt their business models, and corporate cultures, to deliver more efficient work processes and higher productivity.

This type of institutional innovation allows organisations to culturally re-architect themselves to scale learning and generate richer innovations at other levels, including products, services, and management systems. Innovation needs to be an in-built part of the business strategy, where companies create a culture of learning and lead the way in innovative thinking and creative problem solving. A key element in facilitating this innovation is for organisations to understand their existing culture and how it can evolve to succeed in its current environment, and embed mechanisms to help align the workforce accordingly.


Emma Bannister, Founder & CEO of Presentation Studio

Innovation is the very stuff of life, and cannot just be limited to the tech space. Innovation simply means ‘newness’. New solutions and new ways of thinking are essential. Our ability to ascertain opportunity and innovate is what makes us human. For all of human history, we have been innovators – moving forward through creativity in science, art, technology and business. In my case, re-thinking the way we use presentations is an expression of innovation – recognising a need and responding creatively. Innovation is still the duty and purpose of all of us, not just those in the tech space. Imagination is uniquely human – and we all have something to bring to that. Business leaders, no matter their industry, can and should be innovators! What can we be doing better? That’s innovation.


Dipra Ray, CEO at mPort

Innovation definitely does not lie only in the technology space though I do think there is a tendency for people to group innovation and technology together. I strongly believe that innovation can and should be embedded in all different facets of a business. For a business to be truly exceptional, it needs to encourage and foster innovation in all parts of its business. For example, here at mPort we’ve explored innovative HR policies in the past including where we’ve stopped tracking sick leave for a while now as it doesn’t make sense to make people worried about losing their annual leave when they’re sick. We’ve also been innovative on how we attract and retain some of our best folks, and most of it has very little to do with technology.  There’s no doubt that technology can be an enabler to some innovation but technology doesn’t have a monopoly on innovation by any stretch. 


Sreelesh Pillai, General Manager at Freshworks Australia

“It’s false to say innovation only lies within the tech space. Where there is a culture of customer centricity, there is bound to be innovation towards improving user experience, regardless of the organisation or industry.

Think of the Medicare system the Government has provided for us. It was established with the public in mind to ensure it is a convenient and cost-effective service, but that hasn’t led to a decrease in innovation.

For example, the Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement is a cooperative initiative with 11 other countries covering the cost of medically necessary care for Australian citizens and travellers to Australia. The Medicare mobile app is another key example of innovation taking place in this field. These are the results of innovation stemming from a relentless focus on the citizen’s wellbeing and their customer experience.

Through our work at Freshworks, we see many similar examples of innovation happening daily as businesses lead the charge in innovating for their customers and staff across all industries and sectors.”


Michael Stelzer, Vice President Australia & New Zealand, Verint

Innovation is evident in many spaces; technology is just one of them. In contact centres, a unique balance between technology and innovation has driven the evolution of better customer service. Part of this has been the introduction of innovative ways of communicating with clients – virtual assistants or bots have become an integral part of providing people with a more in-depth customer experience.

This technology has been supported by the agents in the sector, looking at the issues and coming up with innovative ways they approach understanding the customer. The insights or benefits provided by the technology would mean nothing without the out-of-the-box thinking employed by people who know how to innovate.

So, it’s about ensuring people in the organisation are a part of the innovation process and creating a balance between technology and humans.

What do you think?

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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