White Paper: Breakfast of Innovation Champions

Shaun Stevens 04.10.2016

As a part of Morgan McKinley’s commitment to thought leadership, we held our bi-annual breakfast event tackling the subject of innovation.

Morgan McKinley has launched its innovation practice off the increased flow of requests from the market for expertise across this space. Placing leaders in numerous clients has led us to help build their team with specialist hard to find talent and unique skill-sets.

On a relatively wet July morning, 150 people gathered in the Establishment Ballroom to hear industry leaders discuss innovation. The panel, consisting of corporate leaders and start-up entrepreneurs, took to stage to address questions surrounding the means behind innovation, its current landscape, and its success.


For me, the discussion touched on numerous insights that both clients and candidates have shared with me, but picking up on one particular topic, it would have to be the panel’s insistence that innovation is not just “their responsibility”, it's everyone's

One attendee, sharing on LinkedIn post event, singled out a particular quote about embracing the reality that you can be a “30 failure type of guy”. The context behind this is that we need a pragmatic approach to innovation. Failure isn’t failure if we learn from it. It’s a practical step in understanding what works and what doesn't. And if we learn from “30 failures” we have at minimum of 30 insights into what will work next time, but also what won't.

A prime example which was highlighted by Kate Beddoe, Strategic Partnerships Lead for Google, during the conversation was Google Glass. For those unaware Google Glass is an optical head-mounted display, that is designed in the shape of a pair of eyeglasses. Google prototyped this within the market, and the resulting insight was that the market probably wasn’t ready. 

Should this be seen as failure when all the insight and innovation has been used for further products? Prototyping products to the market is a very different concept to a final product launch. If we consistently look at our ideas as ‘prototypes’ it will increase our ability to innovate. 

The importance of this? It creates the right culture for innovation. The panel spoke of championing innovation, become that person or those people that create the environment for innovation to prosper and don't give up. It is rare that one single idea ends up as a success in innovation. It may take 30, it may take 5.

Of course, there needs to be structure, there needs to be investment from the board and directors for ideas to be championed. But the underlying factor being, providing insights, ideas, and new concepts initiates this process.

The contrast of this is that within these “30 failures” the concept of ‘Failing fast is key’. For innovation to thrive it needs to be realised as early as possible, that, potentially, the idea isn’t right. So what. If this is the case, learn your lesson and rebuild. As Kirsten Dunlop, Chief Innovation Officer Suncorp, noted ‘you don't have to place big bets’ for innovation to succeed.

The role of innovation is not just for the incumbents with these titles in your organisation. Companies are calling for internal innovators, as Emma Lo Russo, CEO Digivizer, noted:

“We have an accountability to drive innovation, Innovation is not someone else's responsibility it's yours”

The blue touch paper has been lit, and we are ever embracing the cultural shift. Soon Gen Y will hold a majority of senior positions in both corporates and start-ups, and even start seeing the start-up as a more desirable option, something noted by Kate Huggins, Partner at Deloitte. My observation is that the shift will intensify. Before this, we must all refocus and become champions of innovation.

For anyone that could not make this event, we have compiled all of the main highlights and produced a white paper to share with you.

Shaun Stevens's picture
Associate Director | Finance, Strategy & Innovation