PETER ROWLAND

CEO, MICRO-X

THOUGHT

Leader

AN INNOVATOR OF INDUSTRY
“IT’S EASY FOR COMPANIES THAT HAVE DEVELOPED A GROUND-BREAKING NEW TECHNOLOGY TO FALL INTO THE TRAP OF BELIEVING THAT THEIR COMPANY’S SCIENTISTS, RESEARCHERS, AND ENGINEERS SHOULD BE THE ONLY INNOVATORS WITHIN THE WORKFORCE. MAKING THIS MISTAKE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE THE COMPANY’S COMMERCIALISATION TO FAIL.” – PETER ROWLAND, CEO, MICRO-X

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In fact, a culture of innovation must be endemic across a company. It must form part of its DNA, driving the behaviour and thinking of every employee. This is important across all members of the innovation ecosystem, with opportunities to learn through the sharing of ideas in innovation precincts like Tonsley, where Micro-X is based.

Innovative behaviours are contagious – the constant self-challenging of “are we sure there isn’t a better way?” can produce new ways of working in finance, in HR practices and recruitment, in procurement, in manufacturing and in management which can transform corporate performance. Of the nontechnical areas within a business, innovation is perhaps most critical in product planning and marketing.

Innovators seeking to disrupt markets with products based on new technology often encounter unexpected headwinds. Markets, particularly markets which are risk-averse, are often dominated by large companies with a strong and reliable brand and their customers make purchasing decisions in their favour based on a reliable maxim that ‘nobody ever got fired for buying from IBM’. These large companies eschew adoption of disruptive technologies, preferring instead only incremental extensions to product performance.

The reason for this has been termed ‘the Innovator’s Dilemma’ – successful, well-managed companies always listen to their customers but customers rarely demand disruptive products. As Henry Ford remarked, “if I had asked people what they wanted they would have said faster horses”. In this way markets inherently possess a significant barrier to the adoption of disruptive technologies.

Thus innovation in the marketing of new disruptive products is as critical as the innovation in the product’s technology. In ‘Crossing the Chasm’ Geoffrey Moore explores the psychology of the early adopters of new and disruptive products. Early adopters clearly see the benefits of the new technology, which are typically simpler, more convenient to use, more reliable and cheaper than established technology products. They are happy to accept higher risk in purchasing an unknown brand to access these benefits. While great disruptive technology products are designed and engineered to appeal to a wide spectrum of users, they must first be marketed to appeal to the early adopters who will initiate broader success in the market. Innovation in branding, innovation in placement and innovation in promotion is key to securing a successful product launch.

Adelaide has a long-standing reputation for world-class manufacturing. Through the careful fostering of our innovation ecosystem, we are already producing innovative, world renowned companies and products. To continue the growth in the sector and make us competitive leaders internationally, we must be brave in our pursuit of the development of disruptive products and particularly fearless in adopting innovative approaches to take them to the rest of the world.

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