Leadership for Innovation in the Digital Age (LiDA) – Industry Engagement and Outreach Group
LiDA is the ‘industry engagement’ arm of the MBITM and its members include alumni, industry partners, MBITM lecturers and current students. The programme is coordinated by Steve Hunt, and speakers from industry are invited to present on topics of interest to the LiDA community and these presentations are debated and discussed by LiDA members.
Background to the LiDA Community
The LiDA group emerged out of the Master of Business in IT Management course [MBITM] which was established at UTS in 1994 as a niche program targeting managers aspiring to business leadership positions in industry. Over the eighteen years of its duration, thus far, the MBITM has been ranked as one of the top postgraduate programs offered at UTS and has built a strong reputation for outstanding teaching. More recently, a strong research culture has developed within the program with a number of academic books and journal articles emerging from the LiDA research group, which is constituted of MBITM teaching staff, students, alumni and industry partners. There has also been a steady flow of MBITM graduates into PhD research at UTS, who are making a strong contribution to the research output.
The LiDA community of researchers meets regularly to discuss progress on current research and academic publications. Guest speakers are frequently invited to present new areas of interest that may develop into topics for research. Students and alumni are always welcome to attend to contribute to discussion and become involved in research. The group has developed a formidable research record as evidenced by the list of publications shown under the adjacent heading. LiDA is enthusiastic to extend its membership in the interests of addressing pertinent issues regarding leadership for innovation in a global knowledge economy.
Summary of meeting Thursday 16th March 2017
Our meeting was held at the Pyrmont premises of Google, and was perhaps the most engaging and thought-provoking meeting we have experienced. The evening commenced with a discussion of Google’s enlightened approach to HR practices. We were then shown around the Google premises and given a privileged insight into their remarkable working space. Finally our own David Gwillim (who is now a Googler, a member of the Google fraternity) gave a most thoughtful presentation on the Intentional Technology movement.
Google prides itself on being an open and transparent organisation, and encourages its staff at all levels to work creatively and ingeniously. Every Googler is entitled to use 20% of their working time pursuing their own interests, in order to give them time and space to fuel their creative instincts. All ideas and questions that are put forward are taken seriously and given a proper hearing. Any promising proposal is given a five-week development window to prove itself. The organisational intention, above all, is “to make Google the best place to learn”.
The tour of the workplace gave an insight into how Google helps its staff to work collaboratively and productively. There is ample provision for collegiate discussion and quiet contemplation. Refreshments and meals are available at all times, free of charge. Distractions are provided in the form of games, movie theatres, and libraries containing actual printed books (yes, hard copy books, albeit mostly sci-fi). To move around the campus, if walking is not your thing, you may use a scooter, penny-farthing bicycle, or even a monocycle. To those of us more used to the traditional corporate workplace, this was an extraordinary experience.
The Sydney monorail lives on inside Google, now used as a relaxation or meeting space.
David then gave his talk on intentional technology, which provided a counter to the glimpse of unchecked innovation that we had observed. There are concerns that the pace of technological change is “destroying the fabric of society by eliminating discourse and creating digital zombies” (source Alexa Clay, available on YouTube). You need only to travel on any Sydney train or bus to observe this phenomenon in action. Google is alive to these concerns and is developing within its constituency a sense of responsibility for the impact of its technologies, and is striving to serve better the wellbeing of the people using them, and to mitigate their impacts. Google is in the fortunate market-leading position where it can afford to divert resources into moderating its technological momentum to achieve a more socially benign outcome.
The meeting then adjourned for dinner, and as always, the lively discussion continued. Our thanks to David and his Google colleagues for a most successful evening.
Summary of meeting Thursday 29th September 2016
The LiDA Group was very fortunate to welcome Mark Toohey as our guest speaker. Mark is Legal Director at Adroit Lawyers, which is Australia’s leading firm of Bitcoin and Blockchain lawyers and advisors. Mark engaged us with a discussion of this intriguing new technology.
The fundamental thrust behind Blockchain has been the requirement for a robust database or ledger system to support the virtual currency Bitcoin. The result is an immensely powerful distributed recording system that employs military-grade encryption, is both immutable and auditable, and is virtually unbreakable. Mark believes that there is enormous potential for Blockchain, far beyond its original intention. He envisages its application wherever there is a need for rigorous tracking and authentication of transactions of goods and materials, and not simply fiscal movements as originally intended. Tracking of shipping containers, pharmaceutical products, and fine wines, are just some of the obvious areas where the technology could be employed.
The talk generated a huge amount of questions and discussion. There was considerable surprise that such a powerful and disruptive technology should be so little understood and was effectively “flying under the radar”. Eventually the formal part of the meeting had to be brought to a conclusion and the discussion continued over dinner. Left to right below: Rob Livingstone, Eng Chew, Ken Dovey, Mark Toohey, Steve Hunt, Tudor Maxwell, Richard Figar, Jens Pistorius, Ivan Romero.
Summary of meeting Thursday 28th April 2016
At the LiDA meeting on 28th April our group welcomed James van Rooyen as our guest speaker. James gave a most engaging account of his journey in building a flourishing online bicycle business. The venture started 8 years ago when James and his business partner had the idea of providing guided bicycle tours around the Sydney suburb of Manly. The project made a very slow and unpromising start, and James started seeking advice from some tourism industry veterans. This provided the clue that the way ahead might be bicycle hire services and not guided tours. Rapidly the business model was changed, and the enterprise started gaining traction. From their experience with re-equipping their bicycle hire fleet, the partners realised that there was an opportunity to import quality bicycles and sell direct to the public. This eliminates the middlemen with which most of their competitors are dealing, thereby providing a significant competitive advantage. The primary selling model is online, which reduces the need for investment in shop frontage and real estate. The growth in the business continues to be impressive and indicates that they have created an effective model for engaging a highly competitive market.
Throughout his talk, James showed a very clear grasp of his ability to listen and learn as he navigated his way through the challenges of building his enterprise. He spoke very candidly of the mistakes they made, and how they recognised and reversed them. He advised against seeking external funding, because it can reduce motivation and introduce complicated investor relationships. James believes that innovation is not based on a single brilliant idea, but upon successfully executing a series of good ideas that are not necessarily new. In summary, James has concentrated on creating a customer-focused business that provides great value and great service. The high regard with which his company is held within the cycling community is testament to his achievement.
The group adjourned for dinner afterwards and the animated discussions continued:
ummary of meeting Thursday 8 October 2015
We were very fortunate to have James Goodridge as our guest speaker. James is CEO of Waysact, which provides face to face fundraising solutions for charitable organisations. The growth of Waysact has been extraordinary, having grown from a germ of an idea four years ago into a global market-leader. The website is here:www.waysact.com“>http://www.waysact.com“>www.waysact.com
James explained to us how the business commenced as a startup, with just a couple of enterprising young people with an idea. After exploring the minefield of external investment, they decided to proceed using their own resources. They were fortunate to bring on board an early customer who provided the business input and assisted with co-funding. The success of the prototype system soon attracted additional customers, many of which operate internationally. Before long, Waysact was delivering services globally to many of the world’s best known charities.
The Waysact service is a cloud-hosted application that enables the electronic capturing of donor information far more accurately than paper-based systems, and provides for the automatic processing of regular donations. The charities using the system have registered substantial improvements in donor retention, processing of pledges, and hence, revenue. A significant part of the investment has been in system security, data privacy, and legal compliance.
Of particular interest to the LiDA group is the way that Waysact operates with no formal office or premises. The team is dispersed throughout the globe, and communicates constantly via sophisticated networking tools. The members are free to live in the location of their choice, and provided that they deliver their contribution on-time, they work under their own steam. The “global office” approach also provides a 24/7 customer support capability.
The meeting stimulated lively discussion both during the meeting, and afterwards over dinner. Our thanks to James and all attendees for a great evening.
Summary of meeting Thursday 4 June 2015
This meeting saw presentations by two engaging speakers, who both tackled the topic of innovation from different perspectives. The first speaker was our own programme member, Dr Robert Simpson who outlined the objectives and drivers of the LP21 research group. An important distinction was drawn between the praxis(the practical application of a theory) and the practice (the action) of leadership. Our guest speaker was Kate Carruthers from the University of NSW. Kate is passionate about encouraging innovation, both social and technological. Among other ventures, Kate is co-founder of Social Innovation Sydney, Creation Nation, and Moore’s Cloud. Kate spoke on the topic of “The Intrepreneur’s Dilemma – leading technological innovation when you don’t have any hierarchical power”. Kate’s presentation was most engagingly delivered and generated much discussion on the challenges we all face in delivering IT solutions. It was an excellent opportunity to share some insights between our two great seats of learning.
Summary of meeting Thursday 4 September 2014
The first meeting of LiDA in our splendid new FEIT building took place on 4th September 2014. We had two engaging and well-prepared speakers who presented plenty of challenging material. Nick Blackledge from the MBITM programme gave a talk entitled “A framework for managing short IT Infrastructure Projects”. This presentation examined the transformation of project management practices in a managed service provider. An action research project is underway using people-over-process methods to attempt to strike an effective balance between improving the outputs from projects, whilst not imposing additional pressure on already stretched project teams. A considerable amount of discussion was generated around the different approaches that had been tried, and the challenges and resistance encountered along the way.
Secondly our noted MBITM alumnus Garth Hunt, who has also attended courses at both MIT and Harvard, spoke on the subject of “The role of the educator in promoting innovative practices in today’s organisations”. Garth was surprised at the strong emphasis on managing for innovation within the courses he attended in these US institutions. As much as 75% of the course material was devoted to topics such as identifying new market opportunities, the various methods of obtaining funding, and product launches. Australian universities do not generally afford this level of emphasis on the creation of new business paradigms. This led to discussion around the difficulty that Australian innovators have in obtaining funding, or even good quality advice, in order to get their ideas off the ground.
Summary of meeting Thursday 5 June 2014
The second meeting of LiDA for 2014 took place on 5 June. The meeting was addressed by two speakers who provided very different perspectives on our key topic of innovation. As always, it was interesting to observe the areas where the subject matters coincided.
Ken Dovey discussed the action research project that is being undertaken by one of his PhD students within a major internet service corporation. The organisation is constantly challenged by increasing volumes, capacity planning, collating of vast amounts of data, and search engine filtering and optimisation. The research project is concerned with understanding the dynamics that promote and enable innovation within the teams that are charged with addressing these issues. The insights gained from the research have been very well received by the organisation, and have enabled team practices and structures to be adapted to enhance creativity and outcomes.
Our guest speaker was Alan Edenborough, Project Director and Specialist Consultant at Sydney Heritage Fleet. Alan spoke with great eloquence and passion about the 30 year project, of which he was the initiator and leader, to restore the iron-hulled sailing barque James Craig. The journey started with Alan chancing upon a rusting hulk abandoned in Recherche Bay, Tasmania in the early 1970s. He recounted the story of how the ship was patched, refloated and towed to Hobart, and then ultimately taken to Sydney for the major restoration works. It was an account that included many brilliant ideas, some great good fortune, major setbacks, chance encounters, and driven throughout by massive determination. Above all, perhaps, Alan demonstrated that using valuable contacts and building relationships is one of the keys to achieving the (apparently) impossible. It was a genuinely inspirational narrative, and supported with excellent visual aids.
Summary of meeting held on Thursday 27 March 2014
The first LiDA meeting for 2014 took place on 27 March. The guest speaker was Julian Hincapie, senior project and process improvement engineer at Ingredion in Sydney. Julian presented an account of how he designed an entire end-to-end corn starch production process as his undergradute project while studying part-time at UTS. All the complex pressure and volume metrics were calculated manually without the aid of a computer. On completion of the project he was then entrusted by the management of the organisation with the construction and implementation of the new process facility at the corn starch plant. It was an extraordinary story of dedication and persistence against the odds. The plant was commissioned in record time and is still producing highest quality starch to this day. Once again it demonstrated how the small agile team, under inspired and motivational leadership, can create and deliver results highly effectively.
Summary of meeting held on Thursday 24 October 2013
The final LiDA meeting for 2013 was well attended and there was lively discussion generated by two speakers from very different and innovative backgrounds. The first presenter was Richard Stuckey, who is the architect of the Portfolio Manager software product used by many major funds managers in Australia and overseas. This is a genuinely innovative product developed by a small local software house that successfully challenged the offerings from some major international players. Richard gave an account of how the product was conceptualised, developed and brought to market. There were many obstacles along the way and it is an intriguing story of creativity in practice.
The second presenter was Alicia Maynard from Lend Lease. Alicia is Head of Sustainability and spoke about the innovative approaches required to ‘sell’ sustainability to all stakeholders in today’s political, environmental and economic marketplace. It was a rare privilege to hear real insights into the challenges faced by a major global player in property development. Alicia’s presentation was meticulously crafted and engagingly delivered. There were fascinating points of comparison and contrasts between the two speakers who addressed creativity from two very different viewpoints.
Summary of meeting on Thursday 1st August 2013
The guest speaker at our last meeting was Sally Dominguez.
Sally is a renowned innovator, writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and other journals, and formerly presented regularly on the ABC TV programme New Inventors. Sally gave a lively, and at times hilarious, account of her adventures as an inventor in Australia and the USA. Her two most famous inventions are the “Nest” high chair for infants, and the “Rainwater HOG” modular water storage tank. Both of these inventions have won awards for innovative design and gained international recognition.
Sally talked about how she developed her ideas and inspirations, created and tested prototypes, and ultimately got her inventions into production. There were many challenges encountered, such as registering designs, testing different materials, dealing with potential infringements, and maintaining a sufficient level of funding. Sally declared that the key to getting an idea from the drawing board into production is “to have literally thousands of ideas, and then some of them will work out”. Her advice to potential inventors is to remember that ideas are a dime a dozen. “Even having drawings is not enough. If you have a new invention, then take it, prototype it, build it, test it and enter it in competitions.”
Our thanks to Sally for this exceptional evening, and for helping our understanding of the real world of innovation.
The supporting speaker was Dr Stephen Hunt, who gave a presentation entitled “Meeting of Minds”. This included an overview of the Lunar Society of England, who were a group of pioneers of the Industrial Revolution, and who formed one of the earliest thinktanks (long before that word entered our lexicon). This discussion then progressed to the recent Davos conference and a debate that took place there about the rewards of mastering risk. Finally there was a brief examination of the contrasting fortunes of the Jaguar Car company under two different owning corporations, firstly American and secondly Indian.
Summary of meeting on Thursday 16th May 2013.
Two excellent presentations were given to the LiDA group members at their meeting on Thursday 16th May. Isabelle Phillips, the founder and CEO of Mackerelsky Leadership Consulting, gave an overview of her PhD research into transformational leadership; while Andrew Ward (an MBITM alumnus and now Marketing Team Manager at Telstra) presented some of the current issues he is facing, that require further research.
The presentations provoked vibrant discussion and debate amongst the eleven members present and have opened up new research opportunities for the LiDA group.
Summary of meeting on Thursday 28th February 2013:
First of all, Ken Dovey and Bruce McCabe presented their material on the major challenges facing the intrapreneur who is hired to transform the traditional organisation. The obstacles to creativity and innovation can be overwhelming, including protection of power bases, risk aversion, resource starvation, and management inertia. This very topical and engaging research will form the basis for both a conference paper and a book.
Secondly, Bryan Fenech presented his research into the shape of the Organisation of the Future (OOTF). Bryan has researched this subject widely and has constructed a model of how the future organisation will need to look if it is to leverage technology to remain competitive, and also to prosper in a world where scarce resources must be conserved. There are many building blocks in the future model and the presentation provided an indication of how far most organisations have to go to transform themselves. This research will be the basis for a conference paper during 2013.