Most of us have now had direct exposure to the impact of the VUCA age. No longer just an interesting theory, the impact of increased Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity is seen in heightened competition, lost jobs, new ways of working (contract and remote) and greater levels of mental health issues as the work/life boundary has all but disappeared. We’ve reached the tipping point.

‘Last year plus a bit’ planning and ‘continuous improvement’ approaches are too slow in a marketplace that is constantly changing. VUCA is here!

Even Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has flagged 2016 as the year of innovation, a worthy goal... So YES, we need to innovate. But how?

It Has To Be More Than Start-ups

Most reporting on innovation features shiny tech start-ups, populated by impossibly young, smart, good-looking and cool hipsters. (These are the people who replaced the tried-and-tested plate with a variety of impractical wooden paddles, platters and planks remember!)

As important and exciting as these labs, incubators and hubs are, the reality is that most of the benefits of innovation will be felt in improving existing processes in established businesses.

It’s nothing like as sexy, but innovating the processes of tax-collection or changing public transport habits is where the most sizeable gains will be felt.

Corporates Feel Ignored

A recent report by strategy consultancy Crazy Might Work, found that Corporate Australia feels largely ignored in the Government’s December Innovation Statement. The report, surveyed industry leaders from businesses including Telstra, Qantas, and the Commonwealth Bank.

Paul Hawkins, CEO of Crazy Might Work noted that:

Corporates recognize the intrinsic link between innovation, higher performance and a global competitive advantage. Unfortunately the Innovation Statement overlooks this big lever of innovation potential, which is a vital part of our economic and innovative competitiveness.

The Young May Miss Out Too

It’s tempting to think that all of this innovation is going to play into the hands of our youngest workers, those who ‘get’ technology and are hard-wired for social networking.

Yet a report by the Federation of Young Australians, The New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for jobs of the future, not the past, asserts that young people may be the hardest hit under a new future of work. They cite three drivers behind this.

  1. Automation: smarter machines performing a growing number of traditionally human tasks
  2. Globalisation: where technology platforms are making it possible for workers around the world to do jobs from remote locations
  3. Collaboration: through which we will see an increasing number of people engaged in flexible work with a range of employers to generate an income

So we need to be innovative within our established businesses and also equip our young talent to make sure they are in the right place with the right skills. That’s a priority when the Federation of Young Australians estimates that:

Nearly 60 per cent of students at university and 70 per cent at TAFE are studying jobs that will be automated.


Mastering Innovation Skills Is Critical

Yes, you heard it! The trouble is most businesses don’t know where to start in unlocking the innovation in their people. It’s just an inspiring, yet vague idea. We need a way in. We need to make Innovation real and identify a process that we can follow to unlock its promise. The i4 Neuroleader Model does just this. 

Innovation is one of the four key competencies in the i4 Model developed by Silvia Damiano, founder of the About my Brain Institute. The other three competencies are Collaboration, Performance and Agility.

The i4 Model is a personal leadership and well-being framework, which has been designed to provide a roadmap for leaders to develop the abilities needed to navigate a VUCA world.

How We Define Innovation

Innovation is the generation of new ideas, the tenacity to bring the best ones to life and the wisdom to know how to enthuse others to support them.

Derived from neuroscience, the i4 Model deconstructs Innovation into 4 constituent parts (or what we call ‘Pillars’) - these are: Imagination, Drive, Curiosity and Attitude. 

Understanding and adjusting our abilities, traits, attitudes and behaviours in each of these equips us to improve our competency as Innovators. This in turn enables us to achieve the economic and social benefits that Malcolm was keen to trumpet. 

Each of these pillars are explored below. We have also pointed you to related articles!


This is the faculty of mentally forming new concepts, ideas of patterns without involving the senses. It is realised through activities such as:

  • Daydreaming
  • Ideas Generation
  • Pattern Recognition

In a corporate context, we therefore need to create the environment, space and time for such things and not write them off as an inefficient waste of time/productivity.

Read more about Imagination!


This is having the strength and perseverance to pursue the actions required in order to attain a desired goal. It is realised through mindsets such as:

  • Optimism
  • Resilience
  • Determination

Having ideas is just the start of innovation. Making them happen once the inspiration expires is what separates the winners from the rest.

Read more about Drive!


This is about the thirst for knowing and the desire to explore. It is seen in behaviours such as:

  • Eagerness to learn
  • Inquisitive Nature
  • Honesty

Again, the need to think, be and do different in order to create a new product, process or service can be a significant challenge to accepted business practices.

Read more about Curiosity!


This is the willingness to embrace doing things differently and holding a positive disposition towards experimentation. It is seen in behaviours such as:

  • Positivity
  • Embracing Change
  • Pro-activity

We must give you people room to fail forward. Progress will be unpredictable and messy!

Read more about Attitude!

Let’s go Innovate

Unpacked in this way, we can start to see a way into Innovation. Contrary to popular belief, innovation is teachable and there are things we can do to access our brain’s innate abilities.

We now have understanding, which is the foundation of all positive change. Next we need to create the new structural, physical and cultural conditions to allow Innovation to thrive and prosper in our people and workplaces.

Originally posted on: 10 January 2016
Last updated on: 25 May 2024
Mark Hodgson

Mark Hodgson

Mark Hodgson comes from an international corporate leadership background. He is one of our i4 Partners and runs his own leadership practise. A natural disruptor, he helps executives and consultants to position themselves as leading influencers. He also volunteers as a Telephone Crisis Support worker for Lifeline.

Mark is an Executive Coach, keynote Speaker and the Author. His first book is: ‘Time to Shine: Adapting who you are and what you know to succeed in the ideas economy’.

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