Why Innovation is Critical for the Next Generation

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Article by Martin Creighan


In my role I have the opportunity and privilege to work with some of the largest enterprise organisations in Australia, New Zealand and around the world.  As I continue to meet with senior executives from these organisations two recurring themes continue to make their way into our conversation. The first is business is moving faster than ever and we are witnessing one of the most rapid business transformations in history.  The second is the need for continuous innovation to survive.

In order for the next generation to remain relevant innovation will need to be part of their DNA.  They will have to approach business with a start-up mentality to ensure their survival. 

You see it is ongoing innovation that will keep businesses relevant.  I was speaking with a CTO of a very large Australian Insurance company recently and he was describing the rapid pace of change in his business.  As we were talking we discussed that in last 10 years the world’s largest and most valuable companies have significantly changed.  The list of top companies from 10 years ago are vastly different from today’s list of most successful companies. Today the most valuable companies are all tech companies.  This does not mean that the largest companies from 10 years ago are not innovative.  In fact, innovation comes in all shapes and sizes.  What this does show us is that innovation in technology is not only changing the business landscape but changing our lives. 


At AT&T we have come up with 3 ways to help our NextGen employees adapt a start-up mentality:

  • Collaboration

    Innovation is built on connecting people with technology. Those connections start with trust and open collaboration or as we refer to it: “the notion of co-creation”. When we innovate we make a conscious choice to look for opportunities to work with others in and out of the business to drive innovation. There’ll always be a startup or technology model out there that can help us stay on the cutting-edge. And a number of various viewpoints will always provide a better understanding of how we can meet the needs of our customers and our business. By embracing the startup ecosystem we can ideate quicker and create awesome services that can get into market faster than ever.

  • Connecting the OLD with the NEW

    In a digital-first world, innovating is only as effective as our existing business technology. We took a look at how we could automate manual processes like data entry or we looked for ways where we could use our own technology and services. For example, we are now using drone technology to inspect our mobile phone towers.  In the past these inspections had to be done by our team members.  As you could imagine these inspections were costly, time consuming and dangerous, presenting a significant number of health and safety issues.  However, using drone technology with cameras attached we not only could do the inspections in a very safe way but we were also able to increase the number of inspections which led to a better service for our customers.

  • Rethinking what’s possible

Thinking differently is perhaps the most important aspect of adopting a start-up mentality and being able to innovate. Without rethinking what lies ahead, any new technology will be used to do more of the same. That's the opposite of business transformation that we are trying to enable. For example, AT&T, Aira and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) are hoping to make the transition to college easier for 100 blind students by giving them Aira smart glasses. AT&T is funding the innovative back-to-school program, which is managed by the NFB and Aira. The Aira platform uses smart glasses, AT&T connectivity and Aira’s network of certified agents to help the blind navigate their surroundings. This new platform has enabled these college freshman the opportunity to “Rethink” their college experience. 

As we can see, innovation is not only enabling the rapid business transformation I referenced earlier but is also enabling so much more.  When we think about innovation, think about the significant human impact innovation is already providing us today.  From connecting wearables to monitoring real-time health statistics or giving a blind person the opportunity to “see” for the first time, innovation is improving our life experiences.  As we peel back the real benefits of innovation it is clear to see that innovation is the foundation of creating better “experiences” (customer experience, professional experience, and personal and life experiences).

Technology and business disruption is a way of life now. And disruption, much like a storm, requires preparedness. In a world where change is the only constant, innovation and adaptability are the keys to survive, evolve —and thrive. This is why it critical for the next generation to embrace innovation!

Martin Creighan is Managing Director for
Australia and New Zealand AT&T,
an AmCham member company. 

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