The head of Deloitte Australia’s emerging technology consultancy Peter Williams recalled a recent conversation with a client eager to innovate.
“They were one of those clients that had ‘innovation’ everywhere,” he told the Oracle Modern Business Experience summit in Sydney yesterday. “I said ‘ok cool, what have you got out the door?’”
“They said ‘oh we’ve got a bit of a problem. We’re stuck on the definition of innovation.’ How long have you been stuck? ‘Two and a half years’.”
The definition is simple, said Williams, who is Deloitte’s chief edge officer: Innovation is about trying new ideas.
“You need ideas, they need to be new, new for you. If everyone in the world is doing something and you haven’t done it and you do it for the first time, you’re innovating. You’ve got to try stuff. Not just have new ideas, you’ve got to try stuff. Innovation is something you do,” he said.
Too many organisations talked the talk with regards to innovation but failed to remember to do any walking. A number believed the buzzword worked like a magic wand Williams said: “Say innovation enough and something will happen”.
This was especially apparent in the rise of management pilgrimages to Silicon Valley, he said.
“Go to Silicon Valley, go oh look what they do, come home and do the same shit…if you were to become a Catholic would you go to the local church or just walk straight into the Vatican?”
Dumb things, good ideas
To get started Williams – who shared with the audience that he was once in the top 80 Angry Birds players worldwide – companies could take an idea from Deloitte. Every two years the organisation runs a ‘dumbest thing we do’ initiative.
“Is that innovation? Yes because you’re improving things, you’re getting on how to fix stuff. And it demystifies it because everyone can relate. As opposed to ‘everybody put in innovative ideas’, ask what is the dumbest thing we do. It’s a great place to start,” he said.
“Dumb things. Things that are stuck in the manual that were put in place 20 years ago. That nobody sought to change because the boss doesn’t know that it’s put on people on the front line.”
Williams – a self-professed Pokemon Go fan along with Telstra’s evangelism and ecosystem engagement lead Frank Arrigo – said where once it was leaders that stifled innovation, now good ideas were being tangled up in internal red tape.
In 2014 Deloitte Australia released a report Get out of your own way: Unleashing productivity that said the “self-imposed rules of the private sector” cost $155 billion a year: $21 billion to develop and administer, and $134 billion a year in compliance costs.
“I’m not seeing leaders these days that often that aren’t into it. What I’m seeing mostly from CEOs is they’re saying: my board gets digital, I get digital, my staff get digital, but there’s this sort of permafrost in the middle. These corporate antibodies that stop stuff happening,” Williams said.