Page 16 - Australian Defence Magazine Aug 2019
P. 16

How prepared are you to innovate?
Facilitators ready? Bean bags primed? Whiteboards clean, bright and slightly oiled? Stop! As you were!
INNOVATION is almost a buzz-word: it’s one of those things that’s hard to define, to the point that trying to create a single defi- nition to cover all circumstances is simply pointless.
Understanding that innovation is about change is important. Creating an innova- tion culture is important. Engaged leader- ship is really important. But how do you configure an organisation to exploit that innovation culture and leadership?
The organisation that you run or work for is (or should be) configured for the business you’re in. You might be manufacturing a product (guided missiles, or sugary cakes), or delivering a service (as an MSP contractor, or delivering flowers, or running a government department), or running an air force.
The business you’re in will determine your structure and size, but to be innova- tive you need also to honour the principles of leadership, subject matter expertise and customer awareness as well as the willing- ness to pursue and embrace change.
Whatever your business, the same four fundamentals apply: Self-Awareness; Situ- ational Awareness; Professional Mastery; and Business Mastery (or Leadership).
Self Awareness is about the innovator’s ‘internals’ – what he’s capable of, and what he needs to change if he wants to do more, or do something quite different. It’s an in- ternal quality control system and it’s vital.
Situational Awareness is all about the ‘ex- ternals’: what is happening externally that may force a change, or that might present an opportunity? What is happening with technology, or the economy, or market con- ditions, or customer behaviour?
The two feed each other. The innovator’s Situational Awareness determines his abil- ity to expose and identify threats and op- portunities; the innovator’s Self Awareness will determine his ability to respond.
The actual response to those opportuni- ties and threats will be conditioned, and
possibly determined, by the innovator’s Professional Mastery.
No person or organisation exists in a vac- uum: whether we’re talking about a charity, a government department, an elite sports- man, a star entertainer or a manufacturing company, the innovator’s activities almost always centre around a specialist domain in which he is (or should be) the subject matter expert – this is Professional Mastery.
For the ADF it is the ability to generate and apply military power at the behest of the elected government (its ‘customer’): ev- ery aspect of training men and women and operating equipment to the highest levels of proficiency. For the manufacturer, it is the technology embodied in his products and services that create saleable products and ser- vices, and the manufacturing techniques and enabling technologies that allow the players in this market to survive and flourish.
The relevance of your Professional Mas- tery, and the professional and technical standards you need to achieve, are in- formed by your Situational Awareness and Self Awareness. The organisation’s leaders and the internal culture they help create will determine how welcome and valued each attribute is within the organisation. Good managers will also create the internal processes and mechanisms and nurture the skills and specialist expertise necessary to exploit the insights they gather.
This is the bedrock of enterprise-level in- novation and it’s what Business Mastery is all about: the ability to maintain an organisation’s openness to change, on the one hand, while managing its everyday activities as efficiently and economically as possible, while also de- veloping timely responses to threats and op- portunities. This embraces business manage- ment, administration, human resources and strategic planning. And innovation. This ap- plies to the lone innovator as much as it does to a large, complex organisation.
Their relative importance will wax and wane as an organisation passes through the business cycle. All are essential, but Busi- ness Mastery will help determine where the balance needs to be struck at any one time.
Don’t laugh, but the ADF gets this and Defence as a whole is slowly catching up. What government organisations struggle with, however, is an innovation culture at odds with a conservative, hierarchical tradition of top-down management and caution over policy development and the expenditure of public funds. Industry and academia enjoy a freedom that public or- ganisations don’t, so have fewer impedi- ments to embracing innovation – if their leadership and culture allow.
Dr Gregor Ferguson PhD is a former Editor of Australian Defence Magazine and organ- iser of the Pacific 2019 Innovation Awards.
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