View Full Version : Innovate or die: Australia's 20 most innovative companies

7th Jun 2018, 20:11

There’s a world of difference between flying pizza and flying people – but Qantas, like Domino’s, believes it has to innovate to survive.

Rob Marcolina is group executive for strategy, innovation and technology for Qantas, which comes in at sixth on the Top 20 innovation list.Be prepared to cannibalise“Qantas operates in an industry that is highly volatile and is one of the few industries where prices go down each year, so there is always a constant pressure to do better than we did last year,” says Marcolina.

He claims that innovation is part of Qantas’ DNA with its heritage traced back to the airline’s invention of business class flights, inflatable life rafts and pioneering adoption of a frequent-flyer program.

It’s so vested in innovation that it has been prepared to disrupt itself – witness Jetstar, Marcolina says.

“There was a threat of cannibalising the core business, but given what was happening in the marketplace we saw it as both a defensive and offensive move,” says Marcolina.

More recent innovations include Perth to London direct flights and through Project Sunrise, an innovation partnership with Airbus and Boeing, to configure aircraft capable of non-stop Sydney to London or Sydney to New York flights.

Innovation has played a critical role in the transformation that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has overseen according to Marcolina. “There is no way we would have been able to do that without us essentially institutionalising and increasing the robustness of that innovation culture and allowing our people – and almost expecting our people – to do things in a different way,” says Marcolina.

“Now we are democratising innovation – this is not the domain of a dark black room on the ground floor. It’s about ensuring every one of the 30,000 people in the company understands there is opportunity to innovate and an expectation to innovate – and that will allow us to have a sustainable business going forward and that’s what creates a lot of energy in the company.”

In terms of the frameworks and processes that Qantas has instilled in the organisation to support that level of innovation, Marcolina says that the company has developed an innovation playbook being rolled out to help staff take their ideas forward.

He also points to the importance of collaboration and bringing the outside in. Its AVRO accelerator initiative for example allows Qantas to tap into the start-up and scale-up tech community acknowledging that: “We don’t have a franchise on good ideas internally.”Expand into new areasMore than 500 applications arrived for the first AVRO accelerator program, 12 companies were selected to participate, several commercial deals have taken place and Qantas has invested in two of the companies.

“Internally it energised the business, getting into the deal flow and [providing] access to ideas,” says Marcolina, who is repeating the accelerator initiative this year.

Qantas is also mindful that other airlines are on its heels.

The Perth-London flight may have been a breakthrough, but now that Boeing and Airbus have worked out an appropriate configuration for a 17.5-hour flight, other airlines could follow.

Qantas upped the ante, says Marcolina. “We spent a lot of time with the Charles Perkins Institute thinking about sleep patterns, time of eating, lighting, airflow. These type of things allow us to meet customers’ expectations of a great journey to London.

“These are unique to Qantas. So if someone else happened to come on that route, we need to make sure we are building a competitive advantage beyond the aircraft itself.”

Innovation has also seen Qantas expand into adjacent business areas, including offering financial and insurance services leveraging both its data and brand.

While customer satisfaction is one of the key metrics for successful innovation, Marcolina says, “The ultimate metric is to have a sustainable business especially in a competitive industry like aviation.

“We can’t only do innovation theatre. We don’t have a sustainable business unless we innovate.”

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8th Jun 2018, 06:53
the story seems to be behind a paywall, but if BHP or any banks are on the list then you know it's a crock. The banks especially wouldn't know innovation if it jumped up and bit them

8th Jun 2018, 09:58
I guess Mr Marcolina could lead by example and take an executive pay cut.

Now that would be quite innovative.

8th Jun 2018, 11:32
So not only have Qantas convinced the media they are the first airline to ever fly the B787, they are now also the first airline to ever fly Ultra Long Range. Does no journalist ever ask questions or do research any more?

8th Jun 2018, 19:31
Does no journalist ever ask questions or do research any more?

Not likely, it would put their fully paid sojourn (business class of course) on the next ‘game changing’ flight in jeopardy.