The value of innovation for CMEs: Australian Unity’s Chris Yates

06 June 2022

BCCM Education’s Clare Fountain recently sat down with Chris Yates, CEO-Retail, Australian Unity to discuss innovation, her experiences working with Professor Emmanuel Josserand and Fred Etiemble and why she will be sending Australian Unity team members to the BCCM’s upcoming masterclass.

Christine Yates

What do you think innovation looks like in action?

“A person who is innovative and who thinks deeply about the business, its customers and its employees, doesn’t always get a chance to operationalise their thinking. They might not have the bandwidth to put these good concepts into practice. At Australian Unity, in our Retail platform, we have developed ‘a system to counter the system that causes us to do every day what we did yesterday’. We work as a team to move these good concepts forward and create something new and different for our customers.”

Why is innovation important in the co-operative and mutual enterprise (CME) sector?

“Co-ops and mutuals started out by solving a problem and addressing a societal gap. If we want to stay true to continuing to solve problems and fill gaps, co-ops and mutuals need to be innovative. There is a risk of getting stuck in a rut, of focusing on compliance and profit and moving away from member needs. If we disappeared and no one cried, we would have lost our role and value to society. This masterclass provides the opportunity to understand the current gaps and step into that void. Like we did 100 years ago we want to go where society needs us. We can use innovation to do that again.”

What does innovation mean to you?

“Innovation is about business models, is about products, is about services, is about ways of thinking and working. Innovation has a very broad scope and includes the bigger picture of how co-ops and mutuals co-operate in Australia. CME growth strategies tend to focus on mergers in Australia and not co-operation. The co-op and mutual whole of market share remains pretty flat. By bringing innovation into how we co-operate across the CME sector we can look at increasing that market share and be a differentiated challenger sector to the listed space. If you believe in mutuality, co-operation and community you have to innovate.”

What can people expect from this course?

“In my experience, working with Professor Josserand and Fred Etiemble ensures that what is happening in the real world informs and increases the value received by our members. They help to break through what we have always done to bring new ways of thinking and working.”

Why are you sending Australian Unity team members to this masterclass?

“I am excited about this program and having the opportunity for members of my team to experience what I have learnt from Professor Josserand and Fred Etiemble over the years. As trainers they make you think about why the work we do every day can make a difference. Fred shares practical tools for keeping the customer member front and center of driving innovation and I have seen Professor Josserand create a reflective space for considering the role your co-op or mutual is playing and if you are really fulfilling the purpose. They both challenged me to think about our customer and our purpose which makes for a very interesting and engaging program.”

The new BCCM Innovation Masterclass is designed to help co-op and mutual executives and emerging leaders develop an innovation mindset, this three, half-day online masterclass is delivered by Strategyzer’s Fred Etiemble and UTS’s Professor Emmanuel Josserand.

The masterclass will take place across three half-day workshops (22 August, 29 August and 5 September 2022, 2 pm – 5.30 pm AEST). Early bird prices are available until 30 June 2022. Find out more and register online.

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