How should leaders approach innovation in the future?

Organisations and their leaders will need to take a different approach to innovation with a more dispersed and virtual workforce in the future, say UNSW Business School's Senior Deputy Dean Professor Leisa Sargent and Scientia Professor of Economics John Piggott

Professor Sargent: I think we've known a lot about what telework looks like for a long time. And I think it's just that we need to ramp up how technology mediates that much more productively and effectively, and how to help people be successful.

But to be honest with you, I think there's a big piece here around business leadership, and how do we make sure that our leaders and managers know how to manage a workforce like that. Because I think, historically in some organisations, it's been quite typical, it's been normative to work in a dispersed and virtual way.

But for many businesses, this has been absolutely a brand new day, because they haven't had the policies for home working. They haven't had the OHS support around that, or even the technology around it. So I think, for me, productivity is around making sure you've got those elements in place those resources and supports, but also the mindset that says, "it's no longer a command-control kind of workplace. We're actually empowering our employees to be productive and successful wherever they work."

So whether that's downtown, whether that's in a cottage in Bowral, whether that's in Singapore, we just need to have much more flexibility about the way in which we think about our workforce, and how we empower them to be successful.

Professor Piggott: That's right. And then there are some industries where government regulation can help with that. I mean telehealth. Telehealth has just exploded in the last two months. And it's exploded because now you can get government benefits like Medicare from a telehealth consultation, whereas previously you were unable to do that. 

And I think that will pave the way for much more comprehensive use of telehealth-type technologies in the health sector. So far, it's been just around the edges. But I think it will become much more comprehensive, and I think it can be genuine productivity benefits.

Professor Sargent: Yes, I agree. And I think that it will just require some imagining. So when you think about innovation, we've got to be thinking about how we innovate on our business processes, how we innovate in our employment processes, and how we also foster and encourage people to take responsibility for where they work and when and when they work.

Professor Leisa Sargent is Senior Deputy Dean of UNSW Business School and Scientia Professor of Economics John Piggott is Director of The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR). For more videos and the full article, please read The future of work is now: So how should leaders drive innovation?

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