Is your organisation capable of being disruptive?

The Hargraves Step Change Commercialisation Group discussed the topic “How to develop a step by step process for radical change that can be incorporated into a Portfolio Management Approach that balances today’s requirements with future viability”. Two case studies were presented.


How does Cochlear bring about disruption to their product offering by using a technology readiness criteria which allows them to either proceed with the application or to park it until the technology becomes available? They also covered some of the elements of their culture, particularly the mindsets that are an expectation of all employees. These included:

  • institutionalised learning being part of your development objectives;
  • a mindset of continuous improvement;
  • a strong emphasis on collaboration and team-work being part of your behavioural competencies;
  • engagement of staff to come up with their own ideas and to think outside the box (also part of your behavioural competencies;
  • a ‘fail fast’ mentality with encouragement being the focus and not punishment; and
  • a lasting commitment to university graduate programs.

Invetech/Vision Stream

As technology developers with a long history of successful applications, Invetech use a similar technique of parking a project until they can either find or develop the means to proceed. The underlying principles that established Invetech included:

  • creating an organisation that is effective in developing breakthrough technology. Developing a culture that balances the tension between:
  • effective management vs inspiring leadership;
  • focus on results vs freedom to explore;
  • teamwork vs individual decisions;
  • risk minimisation vs pushing the boundaries;
  • meeting deadlines and budgets vs delivering value;
  • depth vs breadth of skill;
  • create wealth by exploiting opportunities; opportunistically (allow serendipity to play its role);
  • In a financially disciplined and conservative way.

UTS and QUT shared their research into how disruption can occur in organisations. Specifically, UTS covered how organisations tend to fall into the success trap and as a consequence over time tends to incrementalism through playing safe.

Is your organisation capable of being disruptive? A Learning-Based Maturity Model will indicate whether you can. This maturity model covers people, structure and process and is obtained through interviewing a cross-section of your organisation and through this a snapshot of your capabilities is obtained.

QUT covered what is required to be an ambidextrous organisation. Organisations know how to be efficient and how to be an innovator. The challenge is how to manage these at the same time. QUT outlined three steps:

Separate/Integrate and Adjust

First, separate (take the activity out of the mainstream), then look to integration linkages to ensure that the activity is of benefit to the organisation and adjust based on size (bigger more need) and market factors (faster more need).

In the open forum that followed, arising questions were addressed including the role of acquisitions in disruptive innovation; how to balance the short term and longer-term innovations; when do you bring the customer in; the need for rigorous processes and timelines in innovation activities; and the myth that disruptive innovation is more expensive than continuous improvement and incremental innovation when the reverse is often the case, i.e. more resources are often devoted to maintaining today’s offering than that of disrupting in the future.

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