Australia’s most innovative companies are not just innovating for their external customers, they’re also innovating for their internal ones – their staff. Refusing to be like the plumber with the leaky taps, they are turning their innovation efforts inwards.
The Australian Financial Review’s 2016 Most Innovative Companies list features groundbreaking innovations ranging from: a courier service that owns no vehicles, a pornography film that encourages young men to check for testicular cancer, and a portable device that can diagnose infectious diseases without the need for a lab. But one of the things that sets these companies apart from the 1000+ organisations that nominated themselves for the awards, were what happens inside these companies.
Serious intellectual horsepower
The list was topped by Planet Innovation, who are constantly asking staff to solve not just customer problems, but those internal to the organisation. One of those problems involves table tennis.
“Table tennis has taken off recently with grudge matches drawing big crowds at Planet Innovation,” describes Roger Langsdon, Marketing Manager at Planet Innovation. “However, the constant pinging and ponging of the ball can be heard in adjacent meeting rooms where we have clients. The answer of course is not to limit the table tennis activity – that would just be madness.”
Rather than place ban on this noisy sport, the team instead turned their efforts to trying to develop a solution – developing silent ping pong balls that can still behave like their noisy cousin. “There is some serious intellectual horsepower being applied to solve this one. And they are loving the challenge. Stay tuned for the outcome,” says Langsdon.
Dedicated innovation time
Companies such as Landgate provide staff with the one thing that eludes many in the quest to innovate – time. Landgate Chief Executive Mike Bradford says, “We recognise that the success of Landgate’s innovation program relies on the diverse skills, expertise and engagement of our people. That’s why all employees are encouraged to spend five per cent of their time on innovation activities, and more than that when a project is underway.”
In addition to having time to innovate, staff at Landgate are also given up to five hours paid study leave every week, to encourage people to be lifelong learners – an important skill for innovators.
The war for talent in VR
Many companies fail to innovate how they engage potential newcomers to their organisation via their recruitment process. But at CommBank, it was recognised that the war for talent, especially in the digital and technology space, can be a tough one for a bank to win.
CommBank produced one of the stand out HR innovations from this year’s cohort – a Virtual Reality Workplace, using Oculus Rift technology. In the VR Workplace, potential recruits are guided through a 3D replica of the Innovation Lab and face a series of challenges based on CBA’s five values.
Applicants can also access the experience via a mobile app version, meaning anyone can try it out from the comfort of their own home. So far, over 3000 candidates have used the Oculus Rift VR Experience at career fairs and campus events.
“It not only demonstrates CBA’s technology focus,” says Tiziana Bianco, Global Head of Innovation Labs at CBA, “but the virtual reality experience helps candidates understand CBA’s values and how important it is to place the customer at the heart of everything we do.”
About the author
Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, the innovation consultancy that assesses and compiles the AFR Most Innovative Companies list. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.