Australia’s rate of innovation inches up but barriers remain

Australia’s innovation index has had a slight uptick to 69 points from 67.8 in 2019 with a study finding budget constraints, cybersecurity worries and staff resistance to change are the key blocks to a more rapid adoption of innovation.

Over 800 Australian businesses with 100 staff or more were surveyed for the second annual Ricoh 2020 Workplace Innovation Index with respondents including executive level management, senior and middle management.

The Australian Innovation Index is a number from 0 to 100.

The study comes as latest figures from CEDA noted Australia had slipped one place to 14 in a global ranking of the digital competitiveness of 63 nations.

Ricoh Australia chief executive officer Andy Berry used the study to call for a cultural shift within Australian organisations so employees and technology can work better together to drive innovation and take business forward.

“As the leader of a 50 year old business with 900 staff and 11,500 customers, it is about how do you actually get your people and your technology to work together and how do you take change on in bite sized pieces – how do we enable people at the coal face to drive change?” Berry said.

“Australia has always been a nation of innovators but the challenge we face today is a lack of focus on taking our good ideas and developing businesses around them. We need a culture shift.

“All businesses must develop a platform for continued innovation and create more agile paths forward for new products, services and economic cooperation.”

The StollzNow Research survey, in its second year, uncovered some interesting findings regarding innovation in Australia and how Australian companies view its role compared to its actual implementation.

The study found attitudes toward innovation have improved from 70.1 index points to 74 while consideration of improving internal processes and procedures to “best in breed” had also improved from 67.8 to 72.7. A push to better cater for the human experience of workers was also paying off with an improvement from 61.9 to 66.3 reported in 2019.

“This shows that everybody is moving across to the innovation front and that’s great news but still of course there is a long way to go,” lead researcher Neil Stollznow said.

Another interesting finding was that C-level executives tended to more positively view a company’s position in terms of adoption or planned adoption of innovation compared to senior and middle management.

When asked about attitudes towards innovation, 80 per cent of executive management viewed it positively, compared to 75.7 per cent in senior management and 66.1 per cent in middle management.

Success of actually moving to a more innovative digital environment also reflected this pattern with 57.8 per cent of executive management viewing it as a success, compared to 42.5 per cent of senior management and 36.9 per cent of middle management.

“On every single one of these executive leadership is far more positive than senior management who is far more positive than middle management. This is exactly the same as in 2019 and I still pose the question about what is going on here? Stollznow asked.

“There are two potential scenarios. One is the higher you are up in management the more you see the vision of where you are going and understand the direction and maybe this isn’t filtering down to the lower levels of staff.

The other explanation is that middle management see the grim realities of how an organization is working compared to the executive leadership who see a wonderful benign organization that is being fed to them in lovely power point slides and infographics.”

Key barriers to innovation adoption were highlighted. Thirty four per cent of respondents put this down to budget and resource availability, while 30 per cent said it was about staff resistance to change. Twenty nine per cent of respondents pointed to cybersecurity concerns.

The study also found Australia’s business leaders are very aware that more work needs to be done with just 22 per cent saying Australia was ahead of other developed nations in the digital work environment. while 28 per cent said it was lagging.

Investment in digital infrastructure and culture would help this, Berry said.

He pointed to Ricoh’s Connect and Colloborate offering which is now fully functional at transport company DHL as an example of Ricoh solutions helping a multinational company increase its innovation in the workplace.

“Investing in digital infrastructure and culture which help innovation to flourish is the key to making sure the latter scenario does not come to pass. It needs to be enterprise wide and ongoing, not an isolated or exclusive activity or exercise.

“Developing a program to move to a digital culture will have the welcome side effect of introducing more people to what is possible with digital,” he said. “It’s time to awaken ideas from all corners of your organisation.”

To read Ricoh’s white paper please click here.

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