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Innovation: 8 Steps to Success

The ability to be or remain innovative depends on the organisation’s willingness to continue supporting not just new ideas and products, but also processes. Continuous innovation requires constantly changing aspirations, expectations and behaviour. There will always be vested interests rejecting change outright or supporting it half-heartedly, even if those vested interests were successful innovators of the past who now feel threatened by new ideas. McKinsey’s “The Eight Essential Elements of Innovation” identified the following requirements for consistently successful innovation: 1. Aspiration: NASA’s success in developing entirely new products – the basis of much of the modern world in electronics, communications and digitization was the result of the bold aspiration set by President Kennedy in 1962, to “go to the moon in this decade”. In a corporate setting, however, the aspirational challenge must translate into departmental targets, if it is to change behavior. When linking aspirations to targets, many organisations tend to focus on revenues created by launching new products or entering new markets; requiring them, like 3M, to reach a certain percentage of total sales within a given time. It is an obvious choice because new products and their associated revenues are tangible and easy to measure. It engages R&D, marketing and sales who can feel emotionally involved, as it challenges them directly to come up with something new. However, it overlooks two other important areas where innovation can have an important and beneficial impact on value creation: the business model processes and the workplace itself, which are more likely to be continuous and incremental in nature. There are four important advantages in having formal aspirations to improve processes and working conditions: It embeds the concept of kaizen – continuous improvement. Innovative improvements in working conditions affect everybody, leading to greater employee satisfaction and retention with resulting improvements in profitability. Every employee can propose new ways of doing things because they now have three areas where they can contribute: product, process and workplace. It creates a culture of innovation affecting everybody in the organisation, facilitating buy-in and reducing resistance to change. 2. Selection: Most organisations have too many creative ideas rather than too few, when it comes to new product ideas. They fail to select effectively from them in three ways: They play safe, filling their product development pipelines with relatively riskless projects, yielding incremental improvements. They spread their resources too thinly, instead of concentrating on those projects with the best returns. They fail to allocate/reallocate sufficient resources each year, with the resulting stagnation in innovation 3. Discovery: Effective discovery of innovative ideas and processes does not depend just on creative genius, however much we like to believe in ‘lightbulb’ moments. It is the result of a disciplined iterative process, involving the interaction of changes in technology and partnerships with customers to define what they are lacking or what they do not like about either product performance or processes for doing business with the organisation. It encourages the active use of prototypes to test and validate improvement hypotheses, be they for products or processes 4. Evolution: Established companies have much to fear from upstart disrupters, who threaten their dominance by introducing new products, based in part on different business models. They should be prepared to change their business models before the upstarts do it to them. Incumbents find it very difficult to do. This is because changing the business model requires changes in behaviour; creates political winners and losers in the organisation; and may incur expensive write-offs in plant and equipment, resisted vigorously by the finance function. Effective evolution even in companies with a track record of past success in innovation is often blocked by the ‘Innovator’s Dilemma’. Vested interests will fight such changes when it is not immediately obvious change is required. And when it becomes obvious change is required, it may be too late to do anything about it, as Blackberry’s, Nokia’s or Sony’s fall from grace demonstrated. AI and robotics are serious threats to all jobs not requiring creativity and compassion. However, jobs requiring both will not be affected at all; jobs requiring compassion, but a great deal of compassion or empathy, such as doctors, will change with AI providing the tools to diagnose better, faster and cheaper, turning doctors into the compassionate link between patient and diagnostics. Jobs requiring creativity, such as scientific research, will be enhanced by AI’s ability to screen and evaluate data faster, objectively and free from biases, leading to more discoveries. Proponents of blockchain believe all back-office jobs, regardless of industry, will be threatened by its introduction. Boards will have to understand how these megatrends will affect their business models and the employability of their staff; and evolve accordingly. 5. Maverick acceleration: Ironically, the caution created by good governance processes may stifle the organisation’s ability to bring a new product to market quickly. Some of the most important innovations have been the result of mavericks refusing to be cowed by the managerial processes of their organisations. For example, the Israeli subsidiary of Intel was able to insist the US operations were wrong to focus on increasing the speed of their computer chips, championing instead reducing their size, saving the company as a result. 6. Scale: Getting scale right is crucial. Some innovations are suitable for niche markets with small volumes; others are designed to serve mass markets with large volumes. The problem for innovators is how best to move from small start-up volumes to the much larger volumes expected once the market is fully developed. One of the reasons why incumbents find it so difficult to deal with disruptive innovation is their mismatch of scale. Their business models are designed to deal with mature markets with corresponding volumes, unit costs and achieved prices, whereas innovative disrupters start with business models to serve much smaller volumes, using fewer resources profitably. 7. Extension: It is now common for companies to work with outside parties to develop proof of concept ideas, prototype them jointly and develop trials to test whether they work as expected. Engineering and life science companies work with universities; FMCG companies work with customers to develop new concepts – for example, Unilever’s Sunsilk™ shampoos, co-developed with leading haircare experts from different countries. 8. Mobilization: This is achieved through providing a clear ‘line of sight’ between the mission, vision and values of the organisation and the role of […]

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Surfing on a man made river in Munich

Surfing on a man made river in Munich

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Aussies Tackle Antibiotic Resistance

by: Melissa Raassina & Rebecca Morehouse In celebration of World Microbiome Day, we’re discussing all things microbes and antibiotic resistance! Many people are asking, what happens if antibiotic resistance continues to spread? And how can we prevent antibiotic resistance from spreading further? Why? Antimicrobial resistance, more commonly known as antibiotic resistance, is a big issue facing the population on a global scale. The potential for worldwide disaster is larger than one would think, with the current death toll sitting at 700,000 per year, and predicted to reach 10 million deaths per year, by 20501. What is antibiotic resistance? Antibiotic resistance occurs through the misuse or overuse of antibiotics in humans or animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that it’s the bacteria that become antibiotic-resistant and not the humans or animals. This means that when antibiotics are used, they not only kill the bacteria causing an illness, but they can also kill the beneficial bacteria which protect the body from infection. This leaves room for the resistant microbes which survived the antibiotic treatment to thrive. They are able to re-produce in large numbers and pass on their antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult for the microbiome to recover. The most concerning part is that these antibiotic-resistant bacteria can result in infections that are harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria2. It’s important to note the vital role that antibiotics play in modern medicine – and that should never be debated or watered down. Antibiotics certainly have an important place in modern-day society. The simple access to antibiotics means that diseases and illnesses that once resulted in potential death or permanent damage, are now treated with a simple course of antibiotics that your doctor can give you in a 15-minute consultation. However, it is this simple access to antibiotics that has also resulted in overuse – and even misuse in some cases. Frequent use of antibiotics can cause an almost complete eradication of bacteria in your gut microbiome. This may take up to 6 months to fully recover – leaving the gut susceptible to a lowered diversity of beneficial bacteria and the colonisation of undesirable bacteria. Some of these “undesirable bacteria” in the gut and the rest of the human body can develop resistance to antibiotics, making it harder to treat bacterial illnesses. It’s this antibiotic resistance that is spreading on a global scale and causing very serious issues. What is the problem? According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is reaching dangerously high levels in certain parts of the world. They list common infectious diseases that are now “at risk of lowered treatment options”. These diseases include pneumonia, tuberculosis, foodborne diseases and blood poisoning. Just think, one day you may go to the doctor with pneumonia and not be able to receive treatment because the microbes you host have become resistant to antibiotic treatments. A simple illness then becomes potentially life threatening for some people2. What a big step back to the past that would be! There are several contributing factors to the spread of antibiotic resistance, such as antibiotics bought without a prescription, the unnecessary use of antibiotics (such as to treat viral cold and flu), countries with no standard treatment guidelines, or even the sharing of antibiotics. As the Ad hoc Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance stated in their report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations in April 2019, “there is no time to wait. Unless the world acts urgently, antimicrobial resistance will have a disastrous impact within a generation3.” With the potential to set medicine back more than a century in a relatively short time period, antibiotic resistance must be recognised as a widespread and urgent issue requiring immediate attention from the many, not the few. What does the future look like? Do not fear, action is near. Although antibiotic resistance is not an issue that can be solved overnight, there are now researchers working to address the problem. One  group in Australia, led by the University of Technology, Sydney, is about to get to work on building a knowledge engine focused on antibiotic resistance. The Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF)  financed a $1 million boost through its Frontier initiative for 26 researchers to work for an initial one-year period on tackling antimicrobial resistance. These researchers come from 13 organisations, including Australian leader in gut microbiome analysis, Microba. This group of researchers will work to develop an antimicrobial resistance (AMR) ‘knowledge engine’ that, by using smart algorithms and machine learning, will track, trace and predict outbreaks of AMR and inform interventions. Named OUTBREAK (One-health Understanding Through Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics Knowledge), and headed by Professor Steven Djordjevic of UTS, this software will be used to reduce the risk of AMR in humans and animals who often rely on many of the same antibiotic medications. As specialists in whole genome sequencing and metagenomics, Microba will provide key expertise to this project which will encompass a range of scientific areas to help produce the OUTBREAK system. This is potentially the key to saving millions of lives in the future. The buy-in from governments such as Australia’s, magnifies the impact that such software could have on a global scale. The  aim of OUTBREAK is to be able to see different and localised data streams, allowing the software tool to be tailored at a geographical or sector level. Not every town or city is the same, so they will have different risks and require potentially different solutions or plans of attack. Although in its infancy, this project’s vision is to  create  a worldwide artificial intelligence-powered network for AMR surveillance and mitigation. While this is no small feat, the Australian research team are certainly up for the job. Should they show strong promise, they may receive a second round of funding from the Australian Government to develop the software further. Through projects such as this, we see a relatively small group of researchers from a comparatively small population, taking on a global problem. To see real, tangible impacts in the lives of millions across the world will be something to celebrate together, indeed. References: 1 The Ad hoc Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. (2019). No time to wait: Securing the future from drug-resistant infections. Report to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Summary of recommendations and key messages, p.4. 2 World […]

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Is your Firm Prepared to Collaborate?

Most product and technological innovations come from knowledge-intensive industries like computers, biotechnology, health care, and national defense. In those industries, the ability to collaborate, both within and across organizations, is a must. Collaboration has been shown to reduce risk, speed products to market, decrease the cost of product development and process improvement, and provide access to new markets and technologies. Collaboration is a capability that many companies would like to leverage in their particular business. But even though those companies may be strong competitors in their respective industry, the ability to practice collaborative behavior can be elusive. In order to develop that capability, management must clearly understand the behavioral dynamics underlying competition, cooperation, and collaboration. Competitive behavior is driven by organization members’ desires to achieve as large a share of the rewards available in a given situation as their energy and abilities will allow. This motivational assumption is explicit in economic theory: Individuals and firms act in their own self-interest, and they seek to maximize their returns. When the primary purpose of engaging in an activity is the economic reward it will bring, psychologists refer to the underlying motivation as “extrinsic” – the reward comes from a source external to the doer. On the other hand, when an individual engages in work or other activity for the sheer enjoyment of it, he or she is said to be motivated “intrinsically” – by the activity itself and not the external reward of pay or a promotion. Although few activities are undertaken purely for either their intrinsic or extrinsic rewards, the primary form of motivation that drives an individual is important in differentiating among competitive, cooperative, and collaborative behaviors. Participants in many settings, from business to politics to sports, expect fellow participants to learn and follow the basic rules of the game or activity. Those who do not are quickly spotted as people who are not to be trusted. Unfortunately, cheaters can and do win on occasion, so the level of trust that exists among participants in competitive situations is an important determinant of how they behave in those situations – how they treat the other party, how they handle relevant information, how they negotiate, and so on. The minimum level of trust that organization members expect of their superiors is that they will apply sanctions as specified in the rules (both the organization’s rules and general moral and ethical principles). A higher level of trust exists when superiors can be counted on to allocate rewards in a similarly fair and principled manner. In short, organization members in competitive situations seek sufficient trust to assure that basic rules and traditions will be followed. Cooperation occurs when one person or group helps another in carrying out a task whose outcome benefits both parties. The primary determinant of cooperative behavior, with respect to both individuals and organizations, is that the desired or chosen task cannot be accomplished alone. Sometimes, individuals and groups are forced to cooperate in order to survive, such as in ancient societies based on farming, hunting, or fishing. In today’s world, however, most cooperative ventures arise because the parties choose to work together to accomplish their mutual objectives. Parties engaged in cooperation still act in their own self-interest, but their interdependence requires different ways of making decisions and handling information than in competitive situations. Both individuals and organizations must come to grips with the issue of trust in cooperative situations. Cooperation succeeds when the parties bring their respective resources to the venture and then jointly determine how to leverage and use those resources. If one of the partners exploits the situation in some way, then the overall venture cannot be successful and may not be sustainable. Most cooperative ventures, even those in which the parties trust each other, are secured by contracts. Contracts protect the cooperating parties against risk and damage. In recent years, the phenomenon of “co-opetition” has been growing. The word itself refers to simultaneous cooperation and competition. Advocates of co-opetition argue that the maximization of total benefit occurs when firms cooperate in the generation of wealth (creating the pie) while still competing for their own share of the enhanced outcome (dividing the pie). From a game theoretic perspective, co-opetition is the rigorous search for mutually advantageous agreements that lead to a higher potential gain for both parties. Strategies following co-opetition principles rely on complementary value-adding behaviors such as, for example, those between Microsoft and Intel or those between credit card companies and airline frequent flier programs. Such programs benefit two or more parties without constraining their individual efforts to obtain maximum returns. Similar strategies have been used in other settings involving bidding, negotiations, and customer and supplier relationships. Co-opetition strategies highlight similarities in the underlying motives of both competitive and cooperative behavior. That is, in either a competitive or cooperative approach, the primary outcome that each party is pursuing is an improvement of its own position. Co-opetition is behavior that is extrinsically motivated, calculative, and self-serving. Collaboration is a process of shared decision-making in which all the parties with a stake in the problem constructively explore their differences and develop a joint strategy for action. Collaboration can be directed toward any mutually desired objective: solving a complex problem, resolving a persistent conflict, creating a new business, and so on. Collaboration works best when certain conditions are present, such as when the relevant knowledge base is complex and diffuse, and therefore the parties must work together to combine knowledge and develop joint solutions. Also, it is crucial that relationships are voluntary and the parties care for and are committed to each other. Overall, collaboration is most effective when competent, mature individuals/organizations treat each other fairly and value their relationship as much as their own self-interest. Collaboration differs from competition and cooperation in two main ways. First, cooperation is motivated by the benefits each party expects to receive from combining ideas, information, and resources. Therefore, while cooperative behavior may be enjoyable in its own right, it is primarily extrinsically motivated. Second, because cooperative behavior ultimately involves the pursuit of self-interest, it requires periodic or even continual assessment by each party of the amount of trust and commitment of the other party. In collaborative relationships, on the other hand, each party is as committed to the other’s interests as it is to its own, and this […]

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Free breakfasts in schools to fight food poverty

Thousands of students across NSW will be given free breakfasts every morning, with the government to roll-out a program to provide healthy meals in 500 schools. The breakfast clubs will run in partnership with Foodbank, Australia’s largest food relief charity, to ensure children can start each school day with a nutritious meal. www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/free-breakfasts-in-hundreds-of-nsw-public-schools-to-fight-food-poverty-20190616-p51y6j.html

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Plastic eating fungi that could solve our garbage problem

According to reports, the mushroom’s plastic-devouring properties were first discovered in 2011, when a team of Yale undergraduates and their professor traveled to Ecuador for a research trip. They found the mushroom, microspora, in the amazon and were astounded to find that the fungus not only subsists on polyurethane (it’s the first plant to sustain itself only on plastic), but could do so without oxygen. That means it could be planted at the bottom of landfills and happily eat its fill of plastic for eons to come! https://www.newsweek.com/2014/12/26/plastic-eating-fungi-could-solve-our-garbage-problem-291694.html

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Gender stereotypes banned in UK advertising

A ban on adverts featuring “harmful gender stereotypes” or those which are likely to cause “serious or widespread offence” has come into force in the UK. The ban covers scenarios such as a man with his feet up while a woman cleans, or a woman failing to park a car. The UK’s advertising watchdog introduced the ban because it found some portrayals could play a part in “limiting people’s potential”. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-48628678

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