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Shaping the future: Innovator of the Year 2019
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Innovation continues to be critical for New Zealand’s future, with the benefits of innovation impacting our quality of life and our changing nature of work.
While our country may not come first to mind on a global scale when it comes to innovation, many bright ideas from New Zealand individuals and companies have created successful products, systems and technologies that once started out as a simple notion to solve a problem.
For example, New Zealand’s Department of Health initially felt Colin Murdoch’s disposable syringes were “too futuristic” at the time.
We’ve come a long way since then. But the innovation journey has continued, particularly in our age of technological advancement that many start-ups, fintech businesses and entrepreneurs have taken to market. Accounting software Xero has been a great business success story, for instance.
To recognise current-day progress and developments Michael Page, together with CSIRO’s Data61, launched its inaugural Innovator of the Year Award in late 2019. The award aims to recognise innovative thinking and fresh approaches to solving a business problem.
The competition attracted 102 entries from New Zealand and Australia, from start-ups to large corporations. Following a shortlist of 6 finalists determined by our judging panel, our winner – an Auckland-based business – and runner-up were announced on 6 December.
Alezeia Brown, Senior Product Manager Engineering and Design at CSIRO’s Data61 shared: “Congratulations to Jan at CarbonClick and our finalists, all of whom submitted high-quality submissions for innovative products, services and business models that solved real-world problems across industries and sectors.
“We evaluated all entries for Innovator of the Year 2019 according to their concept, value fit, delivery, impact and scale, and we were impressed by how many had the potential to hit the triple bottom line – societal, environmental and economic impact.”
George Kauye, Director at Michael Page said the high number of award submissions was phenomenal, both from New Zealanders and Australians at organisations across various sizes and industries.
“The award fits perfectly with our strategy and purpose, which is to genuinely support the industries we recruit in, change lives and be a valuable partner to our clients and candidates,” Kauye said.
“Congratulations again to Jan at CarbonClick in New Zealand for taking out the inaugural award – there has never been a more important time to put climate change on top of our agendas.”
Read our interviews with the winner and runner-up for their insights on what it takes to be innovative in today’s business environment.
5 minutes with Innovator of the Year 2019 winner: Jan Ivar Czaplicki of CarbonClick
What is CarbonClick?
CarbonClick’s mission is to make a measurable impact in the fight against climate change by making carbon offsetting simple, trustworthy and ubiquitous so that it’s available everywhere. CarbonClick is available to businesses for a low subscription and they can add it to their website or products so that their customers can neutralise their emissions at the point of purchase.
How do you define innovation?
Innovation is tough. A lot of businesses want to see it amongst their staff but there’s a journey that must take place. Firstly, put it on people’s radars i.e. “We want to be innovative”; “We want you to look out for it”. Innovation is finding connections between disconnected things. It’s about leveraging [current approaches] around a problem but solving it differently.
Tell us about your innovation story.
I had innovation on my radar and wanted to do something with my environmental footprint. It all started with my desire to leave the planet in a better place than where I found it. When I was working on a carbon offsetting model at Air New Zealand, I saw that there were a lot of problems in this space so the innovation component was to solve this problem. We had several tools at hand to be able to tackle it. So CarbonClick was born to use these innovative tools and get together to solve the biggest problem of our time – the environment – with carbon offsetting.
How can businesses be more innovative?
This may seem obvious but the first, and most impactful action a leader can take is to simply announce the intentions of the business to their teams, and give their people time, support and encouragement to let innovation happen. Innovation is a force that needs to be unleashed and supported with full buy-in from the organisation.
Biggest lesson learnt during CarbonClick’s innovation journey?
My greatest lesson is that it’s much, much harder to get a business off the ground and that innovation is not enough to ensure success. Innovation sometimes needs to take a back seat so that solid business foundations can be built.
Does being innovative today require a significant monetary investment and commitment?
Think of innovation as a style of painting. You could go out and get various new paints and brushes if you want (it will no doubt help) but unless you let your organisation paint in that style, you’re not going to see innovation. Innovation does require commitment but not [necessarily] a monetary investment.
Advice for other start-ups and tech businesses for the new decade?
We’re shaping the future with how we build our business today. In the last few decades, I feel many businesses consumed significant resources and took more out of the environment than they put back in. My advice would be, let’s build regenerative businesses so our communities and ecosystems thrive alongside our successful businesses.
What does it mean to be the inaugural winner of IOTY?
I’m very humbled. This is a huge recognition. It’s thrilling and I’m really excited. There was an element of competition and I’m hoping the exposure will help CarbonClick succeed as a business. Hopefully this will be part of our success story.
Jan Ivar Czaplicki, Co-founder of CarbonClick accepts the IOTY 2019 Winner Award from Jamie Blackwell, Technology Manager at Michael Page.
5 minutes with Innovator of the Year 2019 runner-up: Tim Walmsley of BenchOn
What is BenchOn?
A business-only sharing economy platform that allows businesses to earn extra revenue by loaning their staff to other businesses in need. It’s a world-first platform made in Australia that’s on a mission to make sure no one loses their job for financial reasons. BenchOn matches paid contracts from reputable companies to your staff’s skill sets.
How do you define innovation?
“Using our current resources and knowledge to solve real-world problems in new or improved ways.” Innovation is needed in places where complacency thrives. The trigger for innovation is when you hear someone say, “Well that’s just the way it’s always been done.” I also get a lot of ideas from what our clients come up with to help us create the trends.
Tell us about your innovation story.
I’m a retired Army Major who moved into defence project management before joining the industry as the National Director of Strategy and Business Development with a US-based aerospace engineering company. It was during this time I saw the problem that BenchOn now solves.
I was struggling to understand why I was seeing so many capable professionals being laid off simply because there were gaps in work. Not only that but I continually met people who had closed their businesses simply because they couldn’t manage the ups and downs of work. When my mentor said: “That’s just the way business is. We experience peaks and troughs and we hope to survive long enough through the troughs to get back to the peaks. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Just get used to it”, I realised I needed to find a better way. That night I wrote a business plan for BenchOn.
What does it mean to be the inaugural runner-up of IOTY?
I’m extremely honoured particularly with the large amount of applications received. This type of recognition for what we are trying to do in the economy is exactly the fuel we need to press on and push through the tough times. We are striving to bring the benefits of “Business Talent Sharing” into the national discussion so this award helps in so many ways. Thank you again for including us in such an amazing group of companies.
Congratulations again to Jan, Tim and our finalists.
Michael Page Innovator of the Year 2019 Finalists:
- Jan Iver Czaplicki, CarbonClick (NZ)
- Tim Walmsley, BenchOn (QLD)
- Rachael Greaves, Castle Point Systems (ACT)
- William Confalonieri, Deakin University (VIC)
- Paul Jenzen, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (NSW)
- Raymond Weeda, Silverhorse Technologies (WA)