What is innovation?

How do you become more innovative? And what’s collaboration got to do with it?

20 years ago, when our Founder, Allan Ryan, commenced his research at the Australian Graduation School of Management, innovation wasn’t widely adopted. Many leaders were sceptical – it was too hard, too expensive, and simply not justified.

Fast forward to today, and ‘innovation’ is everywhere. Most people now understand why innovation is important. But many wonder how it relates to collaboration, and given the two are so important in the modern workplace, how can you become more innovative?

While innovation may be everywhere, there are many different interpretations depending on the context.​ So at Hargraves, we define innovation as: “a new idea, or the new use of an old idea, that adds value when implemented.” 
And ‘being innovative’ means “helping innovation happen”.

Why is (purposeful) innovation important?

If ‘innovation’ is ‘a new idea (or the new use of an old idea) that adds value when implemented’, doesn’t that mean every organisation is innovative? After all, every business implements a new idea, product and process, at least sometimes.

What we’re really talking about is purposeful innovation. A conscious decision to foster a culture where innovation doesn’t just happen, it thrives. 

What do you innovate?

Think of the first innovation that comes to mind. Was it a product, or was it technology-based?

When we talk about innovation, it’s common to think of a new product or technology. However, many innovations that have had a real impact have been more about customer experience, business models, services or processes. Doblin defined the ten types of innovation, with research showing that product innovation on its own provides the lowest return on investment.

When discussing any change or business improvement (aka, innovation), it’s crucial to have a broad field of vision and look for solutions in different areas – don’t just default to a new product or different technology.

If you have an ideas capture system, make it mandatory that people talk through their idea with at least one other person before submitting. 

You’ll find the quality of ideas immediately improves, and you’ll avoid the problem of half-baked and poor-quality ideas clogging up the system.

Tips for Purposeful Innovation


Does your organisation have a strategy for generating, evaluating and implementing ideas? ​


Do your team members feel confident in suggesting ideas - focusing on the possibilities instead of limitations?​


Do you capture the stories of where and how innovation is happening across your organisation in order to learn and improve?​


Do your leaders foster a culture of collaboration, where trust, common purpose, equal voice, diversity of thinking, shared values, shared accountability, and mutual respect thrive?​


Do you recognise individuals for being brave enough to address the status quo and think outside the square? For coming up with new ideas to work smarter, save costs, enhance employee or customer experience?​

Why is innovation mindset important?

Our experience is that innovation can come from unexpected places.

Whether from your day-to-day work, a routine project or an informal chat. Because it’s not confined to specialist “innovation” projects, people, managers or teams, any number of individuals, tools and techniques can drive innovation. It’s not the tools you use; it’s how you use them.

By nurturing an innovation mindset and being seen as an innovative company, internally and externally, you’ll attract and retain people who want to make a difference in your team and organisation.

Explore our innovation mindset framework.

Research* shows that over 70% of innovation comes from collaboration (and imitation), while less than 20% comes from entirely new ideas.

*  Source: Center for Public-Private Innovation (CO-PI) Innovation Barometer

What is innovation

What about collaboration?

“Collaboration – achieving more with a group than the sum of the individuals.”

Collaboration is the heartbeat of innovation. Picture it as a vast jigsaw puzzle, where every piece is unique yet essential. Our diverse perspectives, experiences, roles, and behaviours are the building blocks of new ideas. They provide a deeper understanding of customer and stakeholder experience. In this intricate puzzle, working together and building relationships is not just important — it’s vital.

Yet our teams are built on the assumption that given the tools and opportunity, people will collaborate successfully because we are social beings. But when we’re all so different, it’s often not that simple. 

Through understanding the habits and behaviours that underpin healthy collaboration, diverse individuals learn to thrive. Working better together, appreciating different perspectives and respecting and hearing every voice.

Learn more about Working Collaboratively.

"We're creating things, working out how to sell them. You can't do that on your own. You have to talk."

Where do you start?

We’ve identified 4 core areas for enabling high performance: people, process, ideas and collaboration. And we’ve captured our research in this short ebook, A Quest for Innovation.

Download and take your team through a step-by-step process to identify priorities and barriers and develop a plan to make change happen.

Need some help? Book a free coaching call with one of our experts. 

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top