This is the second World Creativity and Innovation Day since I joined RSM as Chief Innovation Officer. Little did I know when I joined, that this would be the year that would transform almost everything about our working day. We have adapted to necessity, harnessed disruptive thought differently, and embraced change. The pandemic has demonstrated the power of switching up the status quo and the opportunities that comes as part of that process. Reflecting on the last year, I spoke to some of RSM’s innovation leaders about the challenges they have faced, the lessons they have learnt and what innovation means to them. 

A new era for innovation – Haresh Ahuja, IT Services Partner, RSM AE Technology

“Innovation is unpredictable and spontaneous. It blossoms suddenly and dramatically in response to new challenges. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen the speed of innovation increase significantly as businesses endeavour to keep up with the pace of change. This latest wave of innovation is being powered by data, and the many ways it can be used to help us to automate and work smarter.”

The innovation equation of today has changed. As Haresh says, we are going through a period of rapid change where the focus must be on finding fresh solutions to unprecedented challenges. 
When it comes to innovation, business models are the hardest factors to change. An apt example, borne from a similar phase of innovation, is that of the ice industry at the advent of refrigeration technology which acted as a catalyst for the trade turning its attention to driving efficiencies. Unsurprisingly, we no longer use large blocks of ice to keep our food cold. 

Innovation and creativity are about asking the right questions. Even the best ideas and most creative people need to be challenged – Bertrand Dufour, Partner, RSM France

“I get to work with some incredibly exciting firms, which are bustling with new ideas and creative energy. It is my job to ask them challenging questions and steer them towards the right business model. In my world, the initial seed of a product is the easy part, the key is turning that into a sustainable business. Empathy, humility and trust are essential to creating an environment where people feel comfortable having their ideas stress tested and their assumptions examined.”

Great ideas rarely spring into existence in their final form - they need to be nurtured, refined and directed. A crucial part of RSM’s client service value is to do things differently, posing questions that have not yet been considered along the way. Bertrand and his team help businesses to see the big picture and apply innovation to a real-world context. 

Guide people through the innovation journey, show them solutions to genuine challenges – Fredrik Högström, CIO, RSM Sweden

“Fear of change is one of the greatest barriers to innovation. As a software engineer, my expertise lies in breaking up problems into iterative steps, rapidly prototyping, testing and aiming for the best possible solution. Getting people to accept and buy into change is hard but show them results and they will soon see the value.”

Experimentation and learning from experiments is a crucial part of the innovation process whether considering new products and services or adapting existing ones. 

Never be afraid to tear something apart just because it already works - ask yourself whether it could work even better - Zsolt Kalocsai, Managing Partner, RSM Hungary

“Innovation is about changing our mindsets and stepping out of our comfort zones. Ultimately, just because something works that does not mean we should become complacent. As innovators, our job is to imagine the next trend before it happens and expect the unexpected.”
“In my experience, innovation also demands good translators. Diversity of thinking breeds creativity - you need the right balance to get the best results. Achieving that balance, in essence is my role.”

Diversity of thought might play a lead role in discovering better creative outcomes, but that alone is not enough. Product or solution management is also critical to shepherding the idea from concept, through design to launch and beyond. 

Utilising creative energy 

The potential of innovation is infinite. There will always be another project to invest in, a different data set to build, new problems to be solved. As CIO, a fundamental part of my role is to help establish an environment that provides a fertile ground for sustainable innovation for the long term.

We are experiencing a rare time of transformational change which requires forward-thinking, reimagination and a growth mindset that is driven by purpose. As an organisation, our focus is on identifying and understanding our clients aspirations and challenges. This understanding allows us to bring together the perfect combination of subject matter expertise and technologies to help our clients realise their aspirations and overcome their challenges, anticipating market shifts. Today of all days is the time to celebrate innovation and the power it has to change the way we work and live.