With 50% of jobs expected to become obsolete within the next 15 years, innovation is a skill that will keep you relevant.

In brief

  • Innovative thinking requires an individual approach and can be incorporated every day
  • Innovation sparks from curiosity, creativity, experimentation and stepping out of your comfort zone
  • Discover which skills you need to learn to remain inspired and relevant

Innovation is innate in children and most business leaders want to increase it, so why is there an innovation drought? What are the benefits for business professionals to develop innovative thinking? Innovation is fed by curiosity and can be developed; by adopting an open mind to new ways of thinking. Innovation is borne out of inspiration, creativity, experimentation and new ideas. The catalyst for innovative ideas isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. While you may require space and time to think and allow ideas to percolate, your peers may gain inspiration from discussions, attending an event or engaging a mentor.

Creativity is essential for survival in business

It’s not ground breaking news that the business landscape is changing rapidly, to the point where 50% of jobs won’t exist in the next 15 years, due to automation. But, it begs the question of which jobs will exist and which skills will be in demand? Creativity leads to innovation, and is critical because unlike most tasks that are performed efficiently, creativity can’t be automated. TED speaker and author of The Business Romantic, Tim Leberecht believes efficiency is the dehumanisation of work culture, brought about by digital technology. Efficiency strips the workforce of the time to think creatively. Perhaps this accounts for a renaissance of the liberal arts, identified by Tim Leberecht as humanity, empathy, soft skills, innovation, imagination, adventure and creativity.

One of the big challenges businesses face today is a disenchanted workforce, with 70% unengaged with their learning. We could take a leaf out of Semco’s CEO, Ricardo Semler’s book for doing things differently. Semler advocates idleness as that is when problem solving occurs. His workplace is designed to encourage creative thinking; staff set the rules, choose their hours and managers, take breaks in the office hammocks and go to the beach once they’ve achieved their objectives. The result is he’s a billionaire business owner with a loyal, happy and successful workforce who are motivated through trust and self-reliance.

Tim Leberecht

Listen to Episode six of the Acuity podcast, featuring TED speaker and author of The Business Romantic, Tim Leberecht

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Innovation can occur every day

Innovation is often associated with a revolutionary product and idea, often related to technology. Take for example James Dyson’s inventive vacuum cleaner, now a multinational business empire and one of the world’s leading technology brands. “It all started with a frustration, a bagged vacuum that wouldn’t suck, and wanting to find a solution,” says Sir James Dyson. He remains driven by a combination of dissatisfaction with the status quo and curiosity about how things work. While innovation tends to be associated with the next big thing, you can incorporate an innovative approach to your every day. How? By ‘design thinking’ – an approach to defining challenges and finding solutions that link ideas to the customer need or market. The process can be broken down into inspiration, ideation and implementation, and can be built into your strategy and measured.

James Dyson

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Taking risks and embracing the new

All innovation involves risk and stepping boldly out of your comfort zone into the unknown. Professor Danny Sampson believes one of the first steps to innovation is embracing risk, he says “If you know what you’re doing, then you’re not innovating.” Risk and innovation may not be qualities synonymous with an accountant, yet they are increasingly demanded as the profession evolves, to ensure your career continues its upward trajectory. Risk taking in business is high on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s priority list, he is adamant that Australia’s risk-averse corporate culture must change.

The level of risk required depends on your career stage. While high risk is pertinent to a CFO, courage is one of the key competencies of a CA earlier in their career. Yet risk doesn’t necessarily mean a leap of faith. Risk can be calculated and measured by using big data to determine the level of risk involved in your new idea. CA Colin Chisolm, Investment Manager at Ferio Limited, believes in learning through exploration and taking risks. “I learnt by putting myself in challenging situations and continually problem solving.”

Having the confidence to try something unfamiliar as well as accepting the possibility of failure helps you to grow. Perhaps innovation is about adopting the right state of mind. A positive mindset can certainly help with embracing change and development. Jeana Abbott, Head of Education, Chartered Accountants ANZ believes adopting a positive mindset is key to personal and professional development. Abbott advises people to “Treat learning as a journey, where you are continually inspired by each chapter as it unfolds, rather than focussing on the destination.”

Professor Danny Sampson

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