Why organisational agility is key to empowering innovation

By Sam Bunting

Who do you think the most innovative person in the world is? I bet you won’t guess the answer.

The most innovative, creative and inspiring person I know isn’t often in the news or a fixture on the conference circuit. This person hasn’t won a single prestigious award or authored a single publication.

At a loss for the answer?

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The most innovative person in the world is… my daughter.

You see, as I write this, my daughter is day six into building a rocket ship, one that will take her and her two best friends to Mars. In three days. On green energy. Using recycled materials.

Okay, well, really, she’s modified the box our new refrigerator came in. But I love her aspiration and I think there’s an important lesson here about the power of innovative thinking.

I recently had the opportunity to address a few hundred of the sharpest minds at the Disruption Summit Europe 2018. No one in attendance would have argued that rapid change in the world means organisations need to be faster and nimbler when responding to their customers and employees’ needs.

Yet the point I was making was that many of today’s incumbent organisations aren’t fundamentally set up to continuously innovate, whether they think they’re innovative or not. In fact, the complexity of their systems and processes – the rigidity and command-and-control structure – actively stifles the innovative abilities we humans have the capacity for.

I, for one, want to live in a world where my daughter’s creativity – her ‘shoot for the moon’ tendencies – are rewarded, not muted.

The good news is that the solution is well-within reach and already being embraced by leaders who have found that agile ways of working are unlocking huge gains.

By agile ways of working I don’t mean what your digital team is doing. This is not about tech, this is not about software. It's an entirely new way to run your business. And it’s not just for dynamic start-ups. Far from it, agility can transform well-established financial institutions, household names and industry stalwarts, ensuring they are fit to represent the future of the business rather than just its heritage.

Agile organisations put a huge amount of emphasis on making sure their people are engaged and empowered and part of the co-creation process. They take pains to reduce the layers of complexity and number of processes that slow decisions and the speed at which they can get new products to market. Speaking of getting new products to market, they’re laser-focused on creating value and are totally customer centric in their approach. They recognise that customers see businesses as a means to an end, and make themselves part of their customers’ lives, clearly demonstrating how they can help achieve their customers’ goals. And they’re able to anticipate changes in customer preferences and quickly shift to meet their rapidly evolving needs.

Agility is a winning formula. Our own research on agile ways of working shows the more financially successful an organisation, the more likely they are to display agile characteristics. Of course, financial performance is only one measure of success. Yet to operate in an agile way means to promote a culture where risk-taking is rewarded, where decision making is decentralised, where people are people empowered, and where an organisation’s purpose is so clearly articulated and understood that it serves as the ultimate motivator.

My daughter’s shooting for the moon. She may well get there. That’s because I’m confident that whatever profession she ultimately chooses, she’ll land in a place where agility isn’t something to aspire to but standard practice. And that her creativity will forever continue to flourish. That’s a world we can all look forward to.

D/sruption Summit Europe
Watch Sam's full presentation from D/sruption Summit Europe to find out how organisational agility can help you innovate

About the authors

Sam Bunting PA agile expert

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