Sober up and start driving value


As part of our campaign to identify Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers, we speak to Tom Kerr and Dr Munib Karavdic from human-centred design consultancy WAVE Design. By Brent Balinski.

You could say a lot of things about innovation in Australia at the moment. 

Tom Kerr’s opinion is this: “It’s been treated a bit like a Christmas party. And the fact is it’s probably a little bit drunk.”

The Design Lead at consultancy WAVE Design says that at hackathons and innovation hubs across the nation, it’s all partying and spectacle.

“It’s still in this way where everyone gets excited about being part of it, they do have a good time doing it, but at the end they’re left pretty disoriented with potentially some questionable decisions about what they’ve got up to,” adds Kerr.  

“When you sum it up, it’s like all fun and no action. And I think that’s where our definition of what innovation is really comes to the forefront, which is: ‘innovation is essentially an idea that drives value.’ And what we’re seeing with organisations is they’re seeing innovation as having to be these massive spectacles.”

From process to product, sustaining to disruptive, there are lots of different ways of classifying innovations. At the heart, though, is implementation. And that requires discipline.

“Guy Kawasaki, he had a quote a while ago – and people love quoting him – which was… ‘ideas are easy, implementation is hard.’ But what we think is implementation is hard because we treat ideas as very easy,” says Dr Munib Karavdic, CEO at WAVE Design and Conjoint Professor in Design and Innovation at University of NSW.

Sometimes, adds Karavdic, organisations might not even be proceeding from ideas, but from poorly-framed thoughts.

A lot of work is needed to move smoothly from idea to implementation, and to truly understand end users’ problems. 

“When we understand them we can go in some abstract space where we frame these ideas. And we go from abstract space into physical space with prototypes,” says Karavdic. 

“Then you do the prototypes and try to figure out and test some assumptions. And then as you are testing these assumptions they give you more clarity for implementation, and people will be much more comfortable driving the implementation… 

“A lot of companies as soon as you have an idea say ‘let’s build a business case.’ And we say ‘hang on a minute… it might be an idea to establish a customer case first.”

Karavdic’s company has been a key contributor to @AuManufacturing’s current Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers campaign. Those who have been through our nomination process will have seen their input, and the emphasis on properly understanding a problem and evaluating potential solutions.

According to Karavdic and Kerr, effective innovation is driven by implementation, learning, validating assumptions, and adopting an innovation mindset rather than just innovation tools.

In this episode of @AuManufacturing Conversations with Brent Balinski, we hear from Karavdic and Kerr about sobering up, avoiding the uncertainty attached to racing from thought to implementation, and more.  

Episode guide

1:30 – introduction to guests

3:58 – What Wave Design does – “our main focus is on helping established organisations to navigate innovation and leverage human-centred design as a way of delivering outcomes for customers and clients.”

5:46 – How they understand innovation. And why it needs discipline and structure, a focus on human needs and desires, and not spectacle.

8:08 – How you put a human at the centre.

9:34 – Establishing a customer case before you establish a business case.

10:58 – Why you need to keep learning, experimenting, and even failing. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you actually didn’t learn.”

12:10 – Knowers versus learners.

13:30 – Organisational knowledge increases, but your connection with end users might not be keeping pace.

14:32 – A story about leaps of faith versus leaps of logic and the importance of validating assumptions.

16:10 – Avoiding “nice landing, wrong airport.”

19:55 – Taking an organisation’s culture from using innovation tools to having an innovation mindset. And why it’s not as hard as it sounds.

22:45 – An example of investing time understanding the problem and why it mattered at a pharmaceutical company and the longer-term results in culture.

24:30 – A few thoughts about lifting innovation among the nation’s manufacturers, concerning scale, culture, government support and IP.

28:10 – Some closing comments about what leaders need to know about innovation. 

Nominations have closed for Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers. We look forward to meeting finalists at our special breakfast event on July 4.

Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers is a new campaign by @AuManufacturing. It has been made possible by the generous support of  MYOBSMC Corporation Australia, and Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions. Be sure to check back at this website for regular updates, including profiles of nominees and other information.

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