2016: The Year of Agility and Innovation?

Patrick Hollingworth
December 22, 2015

Goodbye 2015, the Year of Disruption, and Hello 2016, the Year of Agility and Innovation!

OK so the above title might sound a bit lame, but as the new year approaches, please prepare yourself for a massive verbal onslaught* of all things agile and innovative. I reckon these two words (and their derivations agility and innovation) will be the corporate buzzwords of 2016.

*Not from me, of course. I prefer to use the term light and fast. If you want to stay ahead of the pack, I suggest adopting this super cool lingo, too.

In the last piece I sent a few weeks ago, I wrote about our dialogue around the concept of agility and innovation, and suggested that we pause for a moment to consider what we actually mean when we use this language.

Since I wrote that newsletter, there’s been even more froth in Australia about innovation. Last Monday, Malcolm Turnbull released the government’s $1 billion ‘Innovation Agenda’, and then on Friday, Australian tech-start up Atlassian listed on the Nasdaq, giving it a valuation of approximately $8 billion. So, lots of excitement and hype.

Whilst the government’s innovation agenda is a nice but albeit small step towards fostering Australia’s burgeoning technology sector, there was very little relevance for most of us who work in today’s existing organisations. The organisations that deliver all the services that our society needs—like right now, as in today.

And I reckon that this is really worrying. In fact, so worrying, that I wrote a paper for you to read!


(In this paper I unpack the problem in a little more detail, and suggest some solutions.)

Whilst it’s great to get onboard with the excitement around new tech start-ups and how technology is radically changing many aspects of our day-to-day lives, what I found to be particularly jarring around last week’s commentary is that it was delivered primarily through the lens of technology, and nothing else.

That is, we are seeing the cause of disruption as being technology, and we are being told that the solution to disruption is being agile and innovative, via technology.

But that’s not quite right.

Whilst technology does enable our organisations to become more agile and innovative (Atlassian is a case in point: their software solutions are designed to improve team efficiency and workflow), technology alone will not make our organisations more agile and innovative. Indeed, there are numerous examples of new technology being introduced into existing organisations (in the hope that it will offer a quick fix to deeper underlying problems) where the introduction has been unsuccessful, because the organisation’s people were not supportive of it.

So, it’s important to remember that agility and innovation is not just dependent upon technology. Rather, it has two parts to it: technology and people.

To ensure our organisations are able to become truly agile and innovative, or light and fast, we need to ensure that we have the right mindset and structure in place for our people to support deployment of this technology. Otherwise, rather than doing the disrupting, organisations may find themselves being disrupted.

Want to explore this idea further? Then download the paper I’ve just written which elaborates on this argument and provides some suggestions on how the right organisational mindset and structure can be achieved.

And if you think your organisation is in danger of focusing too much on technology alone as a solution, and not paying enough attention to people, mindset and structure, then all I ask is that you forward this paper on to your senior management!