Here's what Australia's most innovative companies are doing to stay competitive

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In the fast-paced world of change, the need for business improvements and innovation has never been greater.

It’s not only important for the companies themselves but also for their workforce and the economy as a whole. The good news is that the Commonwealth Bank’s FY19 National Business Insights Report on the state of innovation in Australia shows that companies have elevated innovation to be part of their business as usual operations.

Source: Commonwealth Bank National Business Insights Report FY19

The report found 88% of respondent companies claim to innovate, with 58% of overall survey participants satisfying the definition of innovation as outlined by the OECD’s Oslo Manual – introducing a new or significant improvement in one or more of the following areas of a business: product, process, marketing or organisational. The other 30% were classified as “improvers” rather than innovators.

This innovation is happening across the country, the report shows, highlighting “innovation is well understood and occurring more widely regardless of a company’s size, industry, or location.”

Critically, this survey of 2747 businesses and 2422 staff shows across Australia “there are strong links between innovation, adaptability, and an organisation’s sustainability,” the report said.

It’s all about the customer

The results show the standout factor driving a company’s need to implement change is “to meet evolving customer expectations and to improve the customer experience,” the report said.

This report again reinforces that while “technology is an enabler,” it’s also critical to “ensure that the organisation’s workforce has the skills and capabilities needed to continue to adapt as customer expectations evolve and as the business environment changes.”
Three factors stand out as the keys to success in taking advantage of market opportunities and meeting these increased customer expectations:

  • A skilled and agile workforce,
  • Technology solutions, and
  • Access to financial resources
Source: Commonwealth Bank National Business Insights Report FY19

Soft Skills Matter

With the customer as the key driver behind the need for innovation, the survey again highlights that the human element is critical in the process.

“Despite a clear desire among Australian businesses to develop technology skills, the research finds there is equal, if not more, emphasis on the so-called soft skills,” said Adam Bennett, Commonwealth Bank Group Executive Business and Private Banking.

He highlighted that “businesses want employees who are flexible and adaptable, who communicate well and can manage and lead others”.

Source: Commonwealth Bank Business Insights Report FY19

It’s this relationship between technology and a company’s workforce where they can “gain and maintain a competitive advantage,” Bennett said.

The virtuous circle of adaptability and innovation

What the survey shows is that there is a virtuous circle of innovation driving adaptability, noting that “companies that have the inherent capability to adjust to new conditions are the ones more likely to be busy implementing change,” the report said.

This appears to be because of the self-reinforcement of success.

“Decision-makers from businesses that are implementing meaningful change – and employees who consider their organisation to be innovative – are more likely to be confident in their ability to adapt to the external factors in their environment than their peers in companies that aren’t actively innovating,” according to the survey.

Crucially the survey showed that “the difference among employees is particularly striking”.

Source: Commonwealth Bank National Business Insights Report FY19

Success breeds success, or at least a confidence that innovation breeds adaptability, and any further challenges can be faced.

And that will go a long way to making Australian business more resilient, competent, and sustainable over the long term.

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.

iReferences to ‘innovation-active’ are based on an assessment of innovation using the Oslo Manual definition – a new or significant improvement in one or more of the following areas: products, processes, marketing and organisational.

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