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Closing the innovation gap between intention and reality

Australian business leaders see the value in innovation but more needs to be done if we’re to arrest the slide in our national competitiveness.

Innovation is a term we’ve all become well accustomed to. Much like synergy in the 1980s, it’s quickly been accepted as a business buzzword, applied liberally to every organisational presentation and annual report. 

But there’s also substance to it. Technology changes and increasing globalisation are impacting businesses of all sizes, across all industries. As a result, adopting innovative and disruptive practices is growing in importance as businesses try to keep up with our changing world.

Plenty is being said about innovation. But, when push comes to shove, how much is really being done?

In a bid to better understand how Australian businesses are innovating, Canon conducted a study of the local landscape across multiple sectors and business sizes. 

The latest Canon Business Readiness Index shows that business leaders understand the value of innovation, seeing it as a key priority in preparing for an increasingly competitive future. Yet only 30% say Australian businesses are generally innovative.

Show don’t tell

Innovation is a critical ingredient for business success in the modern world, with 78% saying it’s extremely important for Australian businesses. Despite this, only 16% of these same businesses have a dedicated innovation budget.

So it’s little wonder then that only 38% of leaders were confident enough to rate their business as being innovative. Only a handful of companies (16% characterised themselves as highly innovative.

A significant amount of our research findings further confirm that actions speak louder than words when it comes to innovation. Budget restrictions are cited as the main barrier to driving innovation – the average spend was less than $50,000 in 2017. Put simply, there isn’t enough investment.

Emotions also play a part. For small businesses, doubt is the biggest innovation killer as entrepreneurs lose faith in the power of an idea when they’re struggling to sell it to others. For large and mid-sized businesses, conflict is more likely to cause problems as different opinions slow the rate of progress.

Despite its firm presence in the corporate strategy plan it appears businesses have lost sight of what being innovative actually means. Its overuse as a term has done the corporate world no favours because innovation can’t be spoken into existence. This has given rise to significant scepticism, with 18% dismissing it as a buzzword.

Innovation is a big investment that calls for a specific set of skills and behaviours. It’s about evolving and taking risks. Only seven per cent of Australian businesses have plans in place to significantly increase innovation spending in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, a much larger portion of Australian businesses will be discussing the importance of innovation at the next board meeting.

Innovation is key to the future of the Australian economy. To be competitive in this rapidly changing world we need to invest in new products and thinking. As a nation we need to stop theorising about innovation and put our money where our mouth is.

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