Don’t wait to innovate – how innovation could be driving your business further

Australian firms are striving to do things better despite a lack of time, a recent study concludes.  The country’s biggest and smallest companies see themselves as the most innovative, according to the National Australia Bank’s Business Innovation Index.

The index, compiled by NAB Labs in partnership with the University of Melbourne, surveyed more than 500 businesses. It reported large firms (1000+ employees) and micro businesses (fewer than 19 staff) considered themselves the most innovative, with SMEs trailing behind. Overwhelmingly, businesses reported a lack of time as the biggest barrier to innovation. But for smaller firms, a lack of appropriately skilled staff, along with concerns about technology costs were also a bigger issue than for larger companies.

Overall, Australian firms scored 67.6 out of a possible 100 on the Innovation Index. This ranged from 73 for large firms and 69 for micro businesses down to 66 for SMEs. The Innovation Index study found that although SMEs reported lower levels of innovation, they felt they had a better understanding of their customer base, which was a key driver of positive change.

Small businesses were likely to under-report innovation, classifying it, instead, as improvements or adjustments to existing practice, the report stated. It classed anything businesses did to deliver their goods or services differently, faster or more cost effectively as innovation. The opportunity to provide a better product or service was a greater driver of innovation than cost savings. By industry, mining was considered one of the most innovative, followed by finance and property then utility and telecommunications.

Those working in manufacturing, hospitality and personal services did not consider their industries particularly innovative. The survey invited businesses to describe what they believed were innovative changes that had boosted their businesses. These ranged from improvements to technology to make things more user-friendly for clients, to giving staff a greater autonomy. It also sought their input on how the business could run more efficiently.

To see the full report go to NAB’s website.

In their own words

What some Australian businesses are doing to innovate, according to survey responses collected for the NAB Labs Innovation Index.


  • “Building online content for client engagement and lead generation.”
  • “Moving from print advertising to 100% online for lower cost, better management and a better response.”
  • “Client portals – clients can now readily access information about their business without having to go through their contact at our firm.”
  • “Development of a proprietary app to engage our customers and enable a more efficient delivery system which requires less time spent updating of our operator’s memory due to the aid of the GPS system.”


  • “Giving staff visibility into project costings and clearly stating objectives allowing staff to work to budgets.”
  • “Extensive training of all staff members and a paradigm shift from employee to business owner.”
  • “Less layers of management.”
  • “Established an internal “Shark Tank” to assess new business ideas for investment.”


  • “Survey of customers to differentiate between what they receive and what they really want.”
  • “Non-core tasks (e.g. IT, bookkeeping and other matters that could not possibly justify a full-time person) are all outsourced. Service levels have increased markedly, errors and problems have almost disappeared and clear goals and strategies are in place.”
  • “Weekly discussion of operating issues with team leaders so as to agree best course of action.”
  • “Analysing stocktake variances the same day, instead of weeks/months later.


Source: NAB Labs Innovation Index 2016

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