11 December 2017

Improving NDIS Service Delivery Outcomes: one speaker’s thoughts on unlocking innovation for providers

Author :
For providers operating in a NDIS environment the way one deals with an age of consumer choice and control is an innovation opportunity.

1. Selecting the lane for your innovation ambition

To survive and thrive you need to develop and adopt a clear and conscious strategy. In some parts of your organisation and operations you may select to be in a certain lane:
  •    fast lane: being a leader of change
  •    middle lane: being a fast follower that adopts innovation from others; or
  •    slow lane: choose incremental continuous improvements and drive safe reliable services
The recommendation from research is to be clear on your innovation ambition.

2. Managing an innovation portfolio

Find a way to get a good grasp of all the dispersed initiatives - by managing an “innovation portfolio
Image source: Harvard Business Review, “Managing your Innovation Portfolio”

So, what does this looks like?
  • In the band of activity at the lower left of the matrix are core innovation initiatives - efforts to make incremental changes to existing services and incremental in roads into new markets.
  • This could be improvements to current programs for current beneficiaries.
  • At the opposite corner of the matrix are transformational initiatives, designed to create new offers—if not whole new businesses—to serve new customer needs. For organisations operating or considering operating in the disability sector – this is a key area of focus
  • In the middle are adjacent innovations, which can share characteristics with core and transformational innovations.
Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff of Deloitte make the argument that organisations require a balanced innovation portfolio
Organisations with a clear innovation ambition - strike the ideal balance of core, adjacent, and transformational initiatives across the enterprise, and have put in place the tools and capabilities to manage those various initiatives as parts of an integrated whole.
Best practice suggests that outperforming organisations typically allocate about 70% of their innovation resources to core offerings, 20% to adjacent efforts, and 10% to transformational initiatives.
In contrast, cumulative returns on innovation investments tend to follow an inverse ratio, with 70% coming from the transformational initiatives, 20% from adjacent, and 10% from core.
 The ideal balance differs depending on industry and organisation.
One thing is common: Organisations should consider executing at all three levels of ambition and managing their innovation system deliberately. 

3. Maintain a culture for innovation

One of the most important things is to maintain an open mind. A sense of inquiry, of curiosity is essential for innovation. Indeed – curiosity - could be an elevated to an organisational value.
Disruptive innovation, requires a culture of experimentation, a model that allows for testing and learning.
The challenge to acknowledge is around creating a culture of innovation in well-run, well-established risk averse organisations.
The antidote, is having skilled and able innovation managers across all functions of your organisation. So, what should you look for when you seek out these change makers:
  • They are good at bringing the creative ideas of others to market
  • Demonstrate sound judgement about what creative ideas will work
  • Can manage a creative process from ideation to fruition
  • Can estimate and articulate how potential ideas will work in the marketplace.
Failing fast requires a paradigm shift.
A question for your board and management team (and even funders) to consider: “Is failure an option?” Failing fast tends to be cited as a key element for start-ups. So the question for consideration by organisations: are the board, team, and funders ready to accept the “failing fast” paradigm? If not, maybe an alternative more palatable option is to “think big, start small, act fast”

4. Partnerships may provide strength

In unity there is strength, according to the moral of the fable from Aesop, “The Bundle of Sticks”. Just like Aesop’s fable unity and innovation arises from successful partnerships between organisations, their people, and collaborators with other leaders be they from the same sector or from outside.
So, what should you consider before collaborating with others?
  • Know yourself: Understand your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Recognise your partner’ strengths: Understand what each collaborating partner contributes to the design and delivery of services.
  • Shared Values: A commitment to improve social, cultural and economic outcomes for the community that the organisations represent.
  • Shared culture: Mutual trust, respect with openness in all activities.
  • Structure: A collaborative approach to decisionmaking and working together recognising the interdependence between the organisations.
5. Understanding the vectors of innovation

Collaboration within your organisation and outside your organisation are just 2 vectors for innovation. Other required for an organisation to be innovative, were identified in the Innovation Index for the Not for Profit Sector, delivered through a partnership between Westpac, Give Easy and Australia Post.
The Index is a diagnostic assessment tool to measure the depth and breadth of innovation capabilities across all sectors.
The list of vectors are:
  • Internal Collaboration: the ability for individuals and groups to connect and work together 
  • External Collaboration: building and maintaining diverse networks and partnerships with outside suppliers, service providers, organisations and thought leaders.  
  • Innovation Focus: innovation needs a strategy in its own right, including a vision, goals and metrics.  
  • Openness of Culture/Vision: creating an environment where separate ideas and perspectives can collide regularly, with a culture of openness, sharing and generosity.  
  • Organisational Velocity: achieving exceptional levels of performance, relentless focus on improvement, quick to respond and adaptable to change.  
  • Rewards/Recognition: encouraging innovative behaviour through an active program of acknowledgement, including peer recognition, promotion or financial reward.  
  • Stakeholder Centricity: deep engagement and empathy with donors and beneficiaries so we can engage with them in the most relevant ways  
Today’s world is one of constant change.
Every day there are new challenges; new problems that need new solutions; new solutions that may come from innovation.

Guest blog written by: Lali Wiratunga, Board Director, TAD Disability Services NSW 
The opinions expressed here represent Lali’s own opinion and and are intended as general information.

Lali Wiratunga is a Board Director at TAD Disability Services and the National Manager of Westpac's Davidson Institute . He is an active mentor for emerging leaders in the community and cares deeply about helping people and organisations realise their potential. In 2016, Lali was recognised in Pro Bono Australia's Impact 25, an award that recognises leaders in the social economy.

Twitter: @laliwiratunga

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