It’s a strange thing to say, isn’t it? After all, every great accomplishment in history is essentially based on innovation, so the concept can hardly be overrated. So allow me to rephrase – I believe the problem is not innovation itself, it’s the way we approach it.
Henrik Werdelin of Prehype, a venture development firm headquartered in New York, recently got to the heart of it when he pointed out that most of us fail to realise that innovation is not an innate quality of the gifted. “It is an industry-specific, situation-specific skill, built by experience and maintained by consistent, ground-level evaluation and action,” he said – essentially building on Carol Dweck’s idea of a growth mindset (see Prime Mover’s February edition).
As a result, Henrick said all the talk about ‘boosting’ innovation or ‘fostering an innovative environment’ was, in effect, white noise. “The conversation surrounding innovation must turn toward something more practical,” he summarised. “The topic has gone beyond high-level strategy to something that we can barely see when we look up, and it’s not helping any of us succeed. Actual innovative strategies require a dialogue that [has to take] place a little closer to the ground.”
That’s why we consulted Linfox’ innovation expert Chris Hemstrom in the last edition, who adamantly declared that innovation is merely a buzzword and that the real challenge industry has to face is delivering real, quantifiable value to the individual client on an ongoing basis. With that in mind, we decided to take the next step and profile businesses in the current edition that are less about talking the talk, and more about walking the walk.
Melbourne’s Eastern Plant Hire, for example, has essentially invented a miniature Uber to manage an armada of sub-contractors working across Australia, and Maxwell Freightlines has taken the idea of Performance-Based Standards (PBS) to the next level by single-handedly paving the way for interstate A-double transport.
We also didn’t want to withhold the unique success story of Australian trio Bruce Herbert, Edward Walters and David Sim from you, who were tasked with streamlining Coca-Cola East Japan’s vast and inherently complex logistics operation. In doing so, they impressively demonstrated that the essence of innovation doesn’t necessarily lie in one game-changing idea, but in a series of smart improvements based on an intimate knowledge of the issue at hand. To me, that’s what true innovation is all about.