First in a regular series of commentaries on the innovation debate

Two-Way Innovation Learning

Consider a retail book-seller like Dymocks Australia, faced with competitive pressures, a fast-changing retail landscape and a large spread of assets to manage. Where do you start in identifying the kinds of innovation that might future-proof the business?

Meanwhile in a university across the city, bright, committed students are seeking to get more exposure to real world challenges and to learn how to address them. They are looking for more than what is offered by the conventional learning experience which all too often precludes much interaction outside the institution. Enter the Student Leadership Academy (SLA) at the University of Sydney.

Models such as the SLA may just be the missing link in the youth-leadership arena. The Academy is run exclusively by students and aims to couple theoretical leadership education with mediums for practical experience. In short, leadership is grown through real-world experience.

In fitting with their mission, the group has recently launched the “Dymocks Innovation Challenge” in partnership with Dymocks Australia. SLA Executive Member Colleen O’Connor explains “the challenge aims to give students a supportive medium through which to put their leadership head-knowledge into practice”.

Mr Steve Cox Dymocks Managing Director said: “Dymocks is delighted to continue its support of new and innovative thinking. The objective of the Challenge is to help generate, promote and reward commercial and innovative ideas among undergraduate students at the University. “

Student proposals for company executives ranged from the significant redesign of physical stores, to introducing a “pop-up bookshop” model, and from facilitating in-store eBooks sales to rethinking engagement methods for a digital community. Not only were these proposals novel but they were backed-up with industry evidence and clear practical steps to achieving success.

For a company committed to growth, with limited capacity to step away from daily pressures, the modest investment of time and money provides the opportunity to crowdsource (where the crowd are topflight students) a wide range of potential new business opportunities and approaches.

For the students, the innovation challenge allows them to enter the world of business models and competition in a space that maximises the opportunities to put their creative talents to work on a focussed issue. Students receive invaluable advice from industry mentors and academics, to help them apply their concepts to the rigor of real-world business.

The future of this nation lies in innovation and growth. The future of this nation also lies with our youth. Perhaps it is time that we made a greater effort to engage the latter in addressing the former.

Principal Author: Brian O’Callaghan, Junior Fellow, Australian Centre for Innovation