“Innovation is the pathway to sustainable success - but making it happen in practice is easier said than done", says Niall Campbell, KPMG Ireland’s Head of Innovation.
Innovation – from concept to reality
We all know the saying 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. At a time when it seems that everybody is talking about innovation, from governments to start-ups, businesses need to ensure that they quickly move beyond the concept and into the reality - which can be scary and challenging, but is absolutely necessary to ensure long term success. The trick is being able to align the internally generated innovation effects with the constantly evolving external market opportunities and challenges. Of course, these elements need to be tailored depending on the nature of the industry, the size of the organisation and the specific challenges it is facing – there is no set formula. Therein is the challenge and the opportunity.
From mega-trends to micro-actions
A good starting point is to analyse the external forces shaping your industry, now and into the future. Posing difficult questions can produce some answers which may be either uncomfortable or welcome depending on how you are positioned, but will inevitably give clues to the right path to take. Looking for the early signals of change can be a very rewarding exercise. For example, how is my industry being disrupted by new entrants or by faster moving competitors? How is technology going to change the delivery model or alter the value chain? How are the global "mega-trends" such as climate change, changing demographics, globalisation and social change influencing the industry?
For example, evidence suggests that consumer behaviour in Ireland may not be as traditional as once thought. Creative minds are producing new solutions for Irish consumers and industries every day. Disruptive, innovative trends are opening up new opportunities while pushing us to be more efficient, competitive and creative than ever before.
Armed with a deep perspective on these external dynamics enables businesses to really start thinking differently about their response - which is the next step in the journey to harnessing internal innovation and releasing creativity.
Mastering the innovation predicament
“We see increasing evidence that innovation has risen to the top of business challenges for CEOs, C-level executives, investors and founders” explains Niall Campbell. “Thought-leaders have been building strong innovation capability in their businesses over the past two decades. The adoption curve is now shifting from certain 'early adopter' corporates, through to traditional business and on to small business and start-ups. The surge of start-ups in recent years has given prominence to the ‘leanthinking’ innovation design approach and is drawing attention from larger corporates on this new way of approaching challenges”.
When asked about the best approach to driving successful innovation, Campbell explains “for larger organisations, it must start with culture and leadership. Only when the organisation is appropriately conditioned can innovation be successful. The next step is to build an innovation framework within the organisation which includes aspects such as embedding new innovation capability, supporting creativity and behavioural change and actively managing a portfolio of innovation initiatives. Much like baking a cake, it takes time, effort and the investment to deliver a high-quality output - experimentation with different ingredients over time is also necessary if you want to produce something new."
Leveraging the innovation ecosystem
As the innovation challenge becomes more difficult, leveraging supports outside your organisation can be very valuable. There is evidence of an emerging innovation ecosystem which facilitates collaboration between businesses, producers, consumers, academia, government (local and national), investors and service providers. Tapping into this ecosystem will likely be a fruitful exercise for many businesses as the answers to the innovation challenge are not all found internally.
At KPMG, we are firmly positioned within in the innovation ecosystem in Ireland and internationally in a number of ways: working prominently within the high-tech start-up community, supporting Irish business to maximise the value of innovation investment spend through the R&D tax credit regime and via our collaboration with the Irish Times Innovation Awards and AMCHAM Innovation Awards. Most importantly, however, we work with Ireland's leading and emerging companies every day to help them solve problems and to maximise the endless opportunities which the international market presents.
Campbell adds “When it comes to our approach to innovation, we apply an 'outside-in' lens of the challenge: we look to mine the early signals of change in the market and encourage open collaboration by asking a powerful set of questions – “What if?”, “So what?” and “What now?”. This allows us to take on the challenge through different perspectives, define the innovation dilemma and bring the right people to table. No two solutions are the exactly same when it comes to driving innovation and building the pathway to sustainability and success - which is what makes it interesting.”
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