A CommBank executive shares the simple steps you can take to stay at the cutting edge of innovation

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  • Adam Bennett, Group Executive Business and Private Banking at Commonwealth Bank, shared the highlights from the Commonwealth Bank’s FY19 National Business Insights Report (NBIR) on innovation in Australia with Business Insider.
  • The NBIR was based on a survey of more than 2,400 Australian businesses and more than 2,700 working Australians that looked at the behaviours and benefits linked to innovation and has some significant findings for Australian business he says.
  • In particular, Bennett says that companies are responding to customer-led forces and “adapting their people, processes, channels, and technology to meet their rising expectations and enhance their experiences.”

Innovation is business as usual for most Australian firms at present. Businesses are responding to changing customer needs, expectations, and the emergence of a range of high-impact factors presenting opportunities and threats in the marketplace. Our conversations with clients tell us that customer-led forces are the dominant driver of this push to innovate.

This reality is equally apparent in the results of our recent NBIR which showed Australian businesses are acutely aware of the need to adapt people, processes, channels and technology to meet the rising expectations of customers and enhance the customer experience.

Crucially though, it’s not just technology that matters. So while many businesses equate innovation with emerging technology, it is the people within the organisation that often hold the key to successful innovation. This means cultivating the right mindset across the business to support innovation is the first step to building the capability to implement meaningful change.

And it doesn’t need to be an earth-shattering adjustment. Setting the right organisational foundation for innovation could be as simple as providing a safe environment for staff to ask questions that challenge the status quo or offer creative solutions to business challenges. Management support is thus both necessary and crucial. So too is allowing the team to take ownership of these ideas and pilot new programs without fear of failure.

These straight forward changes can help foster a culture of innovation.

What’s important about these behavioural and attitudinal changes within a business is that they allow an innovative mindset, which in turn changes the way innovative businesses interact with their environment. For example, the NBIR identifies benefits that are pronounced among innovation-active companies, including a brighter revenue outlook than their peers. Those staff that consider their employer to be innovative also report greater job satisfaction and loyalty compared to those that aren’t deemed to be innovating.

So it is a win for managers and owners of the business, as well as being of benefit to employees in the business.

This positive correlation also extends to the business itself in the marketplace, with the research identifying innovation-active businesses are more likely to be confident in their ability to adapt to change and less likely to believe their business will fail over the next three to five years. We see innovation, adaptability and sustainability as inherently linked and a virtuous circle emerges when you view them as a set of interrelated factors.

One of the points that resonates from the research is that technology is more likely to lead to staff being deployed into higher value areas of the organisation than it is to replace them.
It’s undeniable that technology is changing the way we work and live. While many employees are concerned that technology will reduce the need for their skills and knowledge, the NBIR showed the demand for soft skills, which ranks just above the demand for technology skills, is more about developing capabilities that can support a business to prepare for future change. That’s why adaptability and flexibility is the most coveted skill among businesses across Australia.

The research also showed that although it is clear technology is reshaping traditional roles, there will still be a need for a balance of soft and knowledge-based skills, that employees themselves are adapting. The NBIR noted many in the workforce are prioritising the development of digital capabilities over other skills.

But there is also an opportunity to better harness existing strengths.

That is, where skills gaps exist – for example in the areas of technology – cross-generational training may be able to assist in knowledge and skills exchanges between older generations with more highly developed softer skills, and younger, more tech-savvy team members.

Companies need to consider both the needs of their organisation and their employees’ career aspirations to ensure maximum mutual benefit and to avoid the employee view that many highly-used training programs are ineffective.

Innovation is a mindset. It is an iterative, constant process through which company leaders, managers and owners work with technology and their employees to continually adapt their business, people, processes, and channels to account for a changing environment.

Importantly, the research showed a substantial positive payoff from innovation because it increases a businesses’ ability to remain commercially viable over the medium-to-long term and confidently adapt to the opportunities and threats it faces.

Read the full report here.

This article has been prepared by Business Insider solely for information purposes based on the results of an online survey conducted between September and October 2018 by ACA Research on behalf of the Commonwealth Bank and is not to be construed as a solicitation, an offer or a recommendation by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The information may be incomplete or not up to date and may contain errors and omissions. Any projections and forecasts are based on a number of assumptions and estimates, including future events and contingencies, which may be inaccurate. It must not be relied upon as financial product advice and is not Investment Research. As this information has been prepared without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness to your circumstances and if necessary, seek the appropriate professional, including taxation advice. We believe that this information is correct and any opinions, conclusions or recommendations are reasonably held based on the information available at the time of its compilation but no representation or warranty, either expressed or implied, is made or provided as to accuracy, reliability or completeness of any statement made. Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian credit licence 234945.

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