While some people consider this pandemic as a challenging and unforeseen event, others are taking advantage of these challenges to build stronger businesses. One critical technology being used more than ever is the internet, which allows lecturers to share knowledge, doctors to keep people healthy, and restaurants to deliver delicious and safe food. However, defensive mechanisms within the organisation can inhibit new adaptations.
Key to innovation is the ability to bring together multiple stakeholders for the purpose of solving problems. Solving problems requires defining the key causes of such problems through diversity, which allows problems to be seen from multiple angles, bringing new technologies and solutions to the problem. The collaboration between a 3D printer specialist and an engineer looking at the problem of housing in poor areas led to the creation of 3D printing machines that create houses for less than five thousand dollars.
Diversity is gained by encouraging internal and external stakeholders to help in the process of solving a problem. Customers are key in this process as they share their problems and needs to the business. Everyone within the organisation needs to fully understand these problems. It is often the case that those who interact the most with customers are not the ones who participate in the decisions of the company. Inviting every person within the organisation to make suggestions and express their point of view can provide a better understanding of the causes of the problems, which often leads into innovative solutions. Investors are a big part of the business who are in the position to contribute ideas to solve problems using their knowledge and experience. Stakeholders differ from business to business—the key is to present the problems the business is trying to solve to every possible stakeholder and allow them to share their ideas to solve them.
Defensiveness within the organisation is related to the inability of people to express with openness. Managing defensiveness is critical during these challenging times. Managers need to be open to listening and executing new ideas. It is challenging to promote a new idea when the General Manager continually discourages solutions that can be perceived as good by the team. Through openness, this can be managed and improved. Openness is the ability to discuss and explain the reasoning for executing and not executing certain ideas. This is a critical step, where leaders, through communication and authenticity, explain stakeholders the reasoning for not taking ideas onboard. Through proper communication, authenticity is increased which encourages stakeholders to keep generating new ideas.
Managing openness can be challenging, however one strategy is to hold weekly or fortnightly meetings with different stakeholders to allow new ideas to evolve. The key in these meetings is to have people from different groups talking openly about their progress and challenges, while encouraging collaboration and authenticity. When new ideas are brought to the table, they should be encouraged, and everyone who wants to get involved should feel comfortable enough to do so. When ideas are not feasible, they should not be dismissed straight away, but the leader should provide some insight into why it is not feasible. Through diversity and collaboration, new solutions can be discussed to make them achievable.
Brainstorming in open environments generates better understanding of the causes of the problem and creates solutions. This strategy could be encouraged by having a board in a shared space, where people are encouraged to expand on other’s ideas.
Digital feedback systems have also been proven to encourage new solutions to problems towards achieving transparency and continuous improvement.
The previous three strategies (meetings, brainstorming and feedback strategies) have been supportive in the development and management of innovative businesses in Australia. Current times require disruptive thinking and the ability to generate new ideas and execute them.
Allowing diverse groups of people to participate in this process can create solutions to problems, making businesses stronger and more capable of navigating through these challenging times.
Dr Jose Medina recently completed his PhD in the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation. His research focused on understanding how highly prestigious innovators within Australia managed to bring innovative ideas to market.