SB-91 Developing the skills for innovation

In Stan Lee’s Spiderman movie, Peter Parker’s uncle Ben is quoted as saying: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

It’s a statement that I believe has significant application to the ICT sector and in particular, the ICT professionals who develop, implement and maintain the various technologies on which business and society depend.

In today’s highly dynamic and competitive environment where innovation has been identified as a key driver of success, it is ICT professionals who hold the power, and thus, who also bear the responsibility to deliver for their organisations and customers.

I was fortunate to attend a presentation last week by innovation expert, Chris Vein, who previously worked as chief innovation officer for global technology development at the World Bank and before that served four US Presidents as deputy chief technology officer for government innovation in the White House office of science and technology policy.

Speaking on the Sydney leg of his national speaking tour, organised by the ACS EdXN (Education Across the Nation) professional development program, Mr Vein challenged the audience of ICT professionals about the role they were playing in driving innovation.

I was delighted to hear him say that, “as technologists, we have the right and the responsibility to guide the change.”

As ICT professionals, we are the ones who are best informed about what technology can accomplish and we are best positioned to advise our organisations about how best to leverage digital advances in order to deliver innovation that will drive results and offer competitive advantage.

Mr Vein offered his audience three key strategies for innovation success:

•Unbundle the value proposition

•Digitally rethink the model

•Monetise the change

He explained that innovation involves looking at the problem or challenge in a new way or from a different perspective, then breaking it down into its component parts to address the root cause rather than simply dealing with the symptoms. The third element is to ensure that the solution is both realistic and commercially sustainable, delivering a bottom line benefit for the organisation.

We’ve seen this start to happen in relation to the problem of girls not wanting to study ICT. In exploring the different parts of the model, we identified issues in how young girls are first exposed to technology and how it is taught to them. By changing the ways teachers are trained to teach technology in primary school, we are starting to change girls’ attitudes towards technology, both as a tool for how they study, work and play, and as a potential career.

In a January 2015 Harvard Business Review article entitled, “The Best Digital Business Models Put Evolution Before Revolution”, authors Didier Bonnet and George Westerman consider the impacts of evolutionary innovation compared to revolutionary change.

According to the authors’ research, only seven per cent of executives surveyed said digital initiatives were helping them to win new business and only 15 per cent said digital innovation was helping them to create new business models.

The article posed that evolutionary change was more effective and far more accessible than the more radical revolutionary change, with 42 per cent of survey respondents saying digital had helped them to enhance their existing products and services while 29 per cent said that digital had helped launch new products and services.

“Huge opportunities exist in using digital technology to evolve your business model by rethinking your existing products, economic models, and digital assets,” the authors claimed. However they cautioned that the place to start is not with the technology, but with your customers and identifying ways to use technology to deliver them greater value.

Mr Vein also referenced a recent ‘Future of Jobs Report’ from the World Economic Forum outlining the Top 10 skills expected to be in demand from workers in 2020, as shown below:

1. Complex problem solving

2. Critical thinking

3. Creativity

4. People management

5. Co-ordinating with others

6. Emotional intelligence

7. Judgement and decision making

8. Service orientation

9. Negotiation

10. Cognitive flexibility

Compared to the same list developed by the WEF for 2015, complex problem solving remains in top spot, but critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence have all moved up in ranking.

This aligns with findings in the latest ‘Australia’s Digital Pulse’ report released by the ACS earlier this month that, even with specialist ICT roles, employers are seeking a broader range of soft skills to enhance their innovation capabilities.

As Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” By harnessing strategies for innovation and creativity along with our technology knowledge and power, we can change the world … and therefore we should.

Anthony Wong is President of the ACS and Chief Executive of AGW Consulting P/L, a multidisciplinary ICT, Intellectual Property Legal and Consulting Practice.

About Raymond Morel (2521 Articles)
Raymond Morel is a member of the Board of Directors at SI and is President of Social-IN3, a cooperative of a researchers’ convinced of the need to address new challenges of today's Information Age, which is slowly and surely modify the entire society.

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