Innovation: An Emerging Leader’s Perspective

Roads Australia is pleased to release the research report of the 2023 PPP Award Winner, Fiona McDonald, which focuses on innovation in the transport and infrastructure sectors.

Each year, the PPP Award is presented to an emerging leader who shows Promise, Passion and Pursuit within the transport industry. Fiona has displayed these skills in her position as a Senior Manager of Industry Affairs & Partnerships, Industry Engagement & Development at Transport for NSW.

The recipient has the opportunity to engage in a 12-month industry experience, observing and understanding how leaders interact and make decisions while playing an integral role in the growth and development of the Emerging Leaders Program.

As part of this 12 month experience, Fiona has undertaken extensive research with both government and industry stakeholders to produce her final report, “Innovation: An Emerging Leader’s Perspective”.

Given the capacity constraints in the transport sector, Fiona explored the concept of working smarter and defined innovation as change that adds value.

Her approach was to explore areas where innovative culture is happening across the sector and gain an understanding of the systems and mechanisms in place that were encouraging it to flourish.

Fiona collated a mix of quantitative and qualitative data through several channels, including a survey sent to the entire RA membership, over 50 1:1 interviews with RA members, and site visits to speak to innovation champions.

Throughout the course of the interviews and feedback, it became clear to Fiona that innovation can happen anywhere, but it requires critical levers to be pulled for it to flourish.

It did not seem to matter where a project was located from regional areas to capital cities, or the commercial models’ projects were delivered under. The critical foundation for all innovation learnings that were shared was Leadership.

If leadership is considered the foundation for innovation to flourish, it is supported by three key levers that ensure its success – Time, Space and Budget. For an innovative culture to be rooted in a project you will need at least two of the three levers pulled, however all three leadto increased success.

Fiona has also expanded on her findings in an episode of RA’s podcast, The Hub, where she is joined by Craig Hugo (GHD) and Alex Berry (McConnell Dowell) who both participated in her research.

You can listen in to this insightful podcast here and read the report in full here.

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