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Five common traits of the innovation mindset

Innovation is everywhere. There’s not an industry that doesn’t innovate, and as the level of innovation increases, so do the opportunities.

What is innovation? It’s “change that improves,” Amazon Web Services Worldwide Lead Solutions Architect Glenn Gore says.

He recently shared the AWS Summit Sydney stage with innovative companies, including Qantas Group, Lion, Atlassian, Baraja, Rugby Australia, Carsales and many more.

Their stories brought innovation to life, showcasing the potential for digital technology to disrupt business models and chart new paths for success. Collectively, they also reveal five common traits akin to unlocking innovation.

“It’s easy to invent things and to experiment, but if it’s not improving anything, then it’s not innovation.” ~ Glenn Gore, Worlwide Lead, Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services

These 5 common traits are as follows.

1 – Ideas come from everywhere

The most innovative companies are unconstrained in their thinking on where the next big idea might come from.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce won’t discount any potential avenue when it comes to finding the next big idea to unlock value.
“[Ideas] can come from big companies like AWS, they can come from Universities, or our 13,000 suppliers. Ideas can also come from [the next generation of] kids.
“We need to encourage it. We need to be out there to make sure their ideas are taken seriously, that people are listening.”

2 – Great minds don’t think alike

Innovators embrace a disruptive mindset and encourage diversity of ideas and experiences, knowing it will make the end result stronger.
“Innovation is a team sport, and it’s something we need to understand and value to do it properly,” Atlassian Futurist Dominic Price says.
“Great minds do not think alike. How do we celebrate the cognitive genius of the people around us and get a friction, a respectful dissent? When you get that friction of teamwork, it’s hard. It feels a lot like a tax, but it’s actually an investment because when you get that respectful dissent, the sparks that you get from disagreement is what creates those genius ideas.”
Price advises innovators to be the change they seek. Stop talking and thinking about innovation and invest your time in actually doing it. And if that means making hard decisions on your priorities, so be it. “If you want to innovate and do something new, you have to stop doing something current that is no longer valuable,” Price says.

3 – Get customer-obsessed

Innovators are customer-focused. One of Amazon’s core leadership principles is customer obsession. We are passionate about producing incredible customer experiences.
“Innovation, in my view, is about building magical experiences,” Amazon’s Vice President of Global Marketing, Prime & Engagement, Neil Lindsay says. “At Amazon, to innovate, we work backwards from a compelling customer promise, and we work hard to find a way to say  ‘yes’, recognising that naysayers are common and that good ideas are challenging.”
National Australia Bank Engineer Manager Paul Silver has seen the impact of customer obsession firsthand, and now applies it both in the way he approaches his own job as well as activity on the bank’s large-scale cloud transformation.
“It’s really rubbed off on and made an impact on me,” Silver says. “I’m so focused now on making sure that my customer gets what they need. We do that with feedback loops all of the time to make sure we are adhering to their needs.”

4 – Be in it for the long haul

Those that succeed are not short-term focused.
“Real innovation and real change takes time. You have to have a long-term view that you can work out what it’s going to take to be successful, and just continue to persist,” Amazon’s Neil Lindsay says.

5 – Cloud is code for doing interesting things

Technology is the enabler for innovation.

Companies across Australia and New Zealand choose AWS services – cloud, AI, machine learning, data analytics – to experiment, create minimum viable products, test hypotheses and ultimately create a rapid pace of innovation.

“Technology plays a big part in innovation and what we’re doing, Qantas Group Chief Technology Officer Rob James says. “Sometimes technology is not the innovation itself, but it enables us to do interesting things.”

For Rob James, innovation is part of Qantas’ DNA. In recent times, that has seen the airline embrace AWS cloud to optimise flight planning and fuel costs, which are “anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of an operating costs for an airline.”

“We’re taking millions of data points and simulating tens – or hundreds – of thousands of flight paths, taking into account real-time weather data, flight and wind patterns … to pick the most optimised, safest and fuel-efficient route that we can fly. We’re doing that in the cloud with the help of AWS. When we do that, it gives us more flexibility with our aircraft. We don’t have to weight limit the aircraft, we can choose to fly a less turbulent path or we can pick up a tailwind and get you to your destination much sooner.”

Beverage maker Lion partnered with AWS and SAP to transform the supply chain for its beer brewing business, letting customers place orders online and track delivery to the back dock. Partnering with AWS gave the company “the capability to very quickly get us on a critical path” to success, Chief Information Officer Grainne Kearns says.
AWS is now powering a range of new, innovative projects at Lion, including an Internet of Things (IoT) application to reduce milk spoilage as it moves from farm to factory. Lion is also experimenting with facial recognition to give drinkers a better experience when they arrive at a bar.

The Ripper Group made world headlines when one of its drones was used to drop inflatable rescue equipment to two young men caught in a rip on the NSW North Coast. Since then, the company has worked hard to streamline its drone design and expand its use cases. With the help of image recognition in the AWS cloud, the drone can now recognise up to 20 different marine objects – from surfers to sharks – and send actionable intelligence to lifesavers back on land.

“It’s very difficult trying to scan the marine environment. From helicopters and fixed wing aircraft currently we run at a 16 percent accuracy rate. With shark spotter and the technology there through deep learning, we’re running at 93 percent accuracy with autonomous detection,” Vice President Ben Trollope says.

Rugby Australia is using AWS to unlock sophisticated data insights both on and off the playing ground. “We invest in technology because we believe it can impact us on a win. Fans love winners, winners fill stadiums, and full stadiums give us the revenue to put back into the game and ultimately grow us as a sport,” Head of Technology Kevin Stafford says. “Like any business we believe data and strategy will ultimately lead to success.”

In short, AWS is here to help, says Head of Emerging Technologies Olivier Klein.

“We want you to have the ability to take cloud services, experiment and build the application that you want to build. We want to lower the cost of experimentation that you have when building these kinds of applications.”

Key takeouts:

  • Seek out ideas from across your value chain.
  • Encourage “respectful dissent” in your teams – it creates great ideas.
  • Be customer-obsessed and committed long-term.
  • Use cloud services to experiment and innovate quickly.