Nick Johnston19 September 2017

How to talk innovation like the best

At Inventium, we are in the privileged position of being the methodology partner for the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies list. This means we get insight into what helps Australia and New Zealand’s most innovative organisations drive innovation.

Data from this year’s AFR Most Innovative Companies List shows that the top organisations understand that communication can help to drive innovation. And their communication efforts are significantly more effective and impactful. So, to help you be the best and drive innovation through communication, here are three simple steps for you to follow.


The what

If you asked 10 of your colleagues what innovation means, how many different answers would you get? If you answered 10, then please read on…

It is critical that the definition of innovation is clear to all your employees – after all, they can’t be expected to innovate if they’re not clear on what innovation is. A peek at the data from this year’s AFR Most Innovative Companies List backs this up.

Of the top 10 organisations, 95% of employees reported that they were confident that their leaders understood what innovation was. Compare that to the bottom 10 and this drops to 29%. Even though every entrant clearly considered themselves innovative enough to enter the competition, at the lowest scoring companies, more than two thirds of their employees can’t confidently say that their leaders know what innovation is.

At Inventium, we define innovation as “change that adds value”. Simple and applicable to all employees – everyone can make a change that adds value. This means that innovation is clear and achievable for everyone.

Step 1: Define what innovation is for your organisation (feel free to steal or tailor our definition). Then make sure you share this so that everyone is on the same page.


The why

The next question to have a clear answer to is: Why is innovation important to your organisation?

There are two important reasons why you should innovate. The first is aspirational – to grow, whether that be in size or impact. The other reason is a little morbid: to not die or become irrelevant. Let’s dig into these a little further.

Innovating allows your organisation to continually add value. In the long run, this can add up to significant value and help your organisation meet its growth targets.

The alternative is to ignore innovation and focus on business as usual. While it may seem easier to stick to the same old thing that’s worked for years, we know that if you don’t innovate another organisation will, and you run the risk of being left behind.

Let’s dig into the data from this year’s AFR Most Innovative Companies List again. 96% of employees from the top organisations are confident their leaders understand why innovation is important. In the bottom 10, this drops to 36%. These top organisations put a focus on explaining why innovation is important.

Step 2: Outline why innovation is important for your organisation. Use this to create a burning platform for innovation.


The how

The last piece of the puzzle is to address the how: How do employees contribute to innovation?

Explaining how to innovate seems basic but it is so important. Good innovators are made, not born, and top companies invest in training staff to develop their innovation skills. In addition, employees at leading organisations are clear on how to contribute to their company’s innovation program.
At Inventium, we have distilled what science shows to be a best-practice innovation into a simple eight step process. This process ensures employees know exactly how to innovate and where they should be concentrating their efforts.

What does the data say here? In the top 10 organisations, 95% of employees were confident that they had a thorough and robust innovation process. Compare that to the bottom 10 and this drops to 23%. Top organisations understand their employees need support and guidance around how to innovate.

Step 3: Develop a step-by-step innovation process for your organisation. Explain to employees how they can get involved and where they should focus their efforts.


So that is the what, why and how of innovation. The data from this year’s Most Innovative Companies List shows that if you want to be one of the top innovative companies, you need to actively communicate the what, why and how. And the best part is, you don’t need a lot of time, people or money to get it done. So get out there and do it.


Want to become a better innovator?

We’ve created a report that explains the six innovation mistakes almost every organisation makes.

Avoid those mistakes by reading this!