How to innovate in business

Thrilled to be in Sydney last week to join our Australian Virgin companies in a celebration of smart disruption. Coming together at the Art Gallery of New South Wales for The Virgin Way Co-Lab, team members from across the Group let the Virgin spirit fly; brainstorming ways in which we, as a brand, can drive innovation and work together to create positive change. It was a space where last names and job titles were forgotten, and all ideas were valued. 

Richard Branson with team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab

Kicking off the event, I was joined onstage by a wonderful group of young Australian business leaders – Emergent Solutions CEO, Holly Ransom; Head of R&D at Atlassian, Dom Price; AIME CEO, Jessica Timmins; and the Collective Hub Founder, Lisa Messenger – for an inspiring discussion, addressing the question: How do we work together to create change that adds value? Here are some key points I took away from the day’s talks. To innovate in business, we must…

Richard Branson and The Virgin Way Co-Lab panel
Richard Branson with team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab

Hone in on the problem
Innovation flourishes best when you look to solve a problem. This has been the key to our success at Virgin. We’ve always gone into business with the aim of creating a product or service that improves people's lives. 
 

Surround yourself with passionate people
Those passionate enough to change the world are the ones that do. Surround yourself with people who are willing to stick their necks out, seek solutions, and be the change they want to create.  

Richard Branson with team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab
A team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab

Embrace diverse thought
It’s crucial that business leaders do not surround themselves with like-minded people, or ‘yes men’. Find people that will passionately disagree with you, and are not discouraged when things don’t go to plan or their way. 

Listen to everyone’s ideas
Innovation is for everyone, and often the best ideas come from those that are working on frontline, who have the most experience with the products or services. I loved when Jess said that there is “No shame at AIME” – everybody should be praised for trying.

The Virgin Way co-lab australia
Richard Branson and team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab

Simplify the idea
Often people are too focused on trying to solve a huge problem or issue, and innovation gets lost along the way. Being smart is about being simple. As Dom said, we should “maximise the signal and minimise the noise”.

Say yes
Be curious, be willing, embrace risk and go for it. Holly hit the nail on the head when she explained that innovation comes when you get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I’ve always been one to say “Yes! Now what’s the question?”

Richard Branson and The Virgin Way Co-Lab panel
Richard Branson and team members at The Virgin Way Co-Lab

These are just some simple points that came from a wonderful day of lively discussions and collaboration. I left The Virgin Way Co-Lab feeling inspired, knowing that the future of innovation in Australia will be bright with great thinkers and doers like Holly, Dom, Jessica and Lisa working to create positive change. 

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