Ideas alone do not create innovation

Since winning the National Telstra Business Woman award for innovation in December, I have been asked by a number of people about what innovation means to RedBalloon. Also what sort of innovation program we have in place.


People define innovation differently. For us, it is an ongoing commitment to review and change. It is not a single activity, nor is it a project – it is the way we do business. I learned from Verne Harnish many years ago to ask these simple questions.

  • What should we start doing, STOP doing or keep doing on behalf of our customers?
  • What should we start doing, STOP doing or keep doing on behalf of our people?


This has always driven us – with limited resources we simply had to be clever about the way we do business. Any technology that can support, reduce or eliminate repetitive tasks has always been considered an investment.


This commitment though comes not just from me as CEO but from the entire leadership team. Innovation must be driven from leadership – I’ve said before as the leadership team goes, so goes the rest of the organisation.


The STOP doing is just as important as the start doing. It is about focus – it is so easy to be distracted by new conversations, opportunities or ideas. It’s about having a plan to deliver on the plan – there’s no point even writing one if you have no intention of sticking to it.)


It is one of the reasons why we do trimester plans rather than annual plans – great ideas and opportunities can be incorporated into the next trimesters plan, which is always only a few months away). Having trimesters is an innovation in it’s own right. We are not doing the same as other organisations just for the sake of it.


We found that quarters were just way too short – by the time you get started, the quarter is nearly over. On top of this, people didn’t really want to do a plan in December ready for January.


For us innovation must have a commercial return. It about creativity and risk taking creating a significant commercial benefit.


You can have the greatest idea on the planet, however it is the action, process and implementation which drives the success of all innovation. Ideas alone have no commercial value.

How to check if you are innovating:

1. Permission from leadership are key decision makers & influencers promoting continuous improvement.

2. Is there dedicated time to do it?

3. For larger organisations particularly are there champions to act as continuous improvement and innovation motivators.

4. Is there education to inspire people to think creatively (i.e. different inputs – not just technical job training).

5. Is there a process for capturing ideas.

6. Are people involved in the process rewarded and recognised for their role in the program.

7. How are the ideas assessed and prioritised.

8. Create work plans, develop solutions, test implementation and continuously review.

9. Reward and recognise and promote more continuous improvement.


Naomi is the 2008 National Telstra Women’s Business Award winner for Innovation. Naomi was also a finalist for the Australian HR Awards and a finalist for the BRW Most Admired Business Owner Award in 2008. Also in 2008 RedBalloon achieved a 97% Hewitt employee engagement score.

One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a professional speaker inspiring middle to high-level leaders on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blogand has written a book sharing the lessons from her first five years.


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