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What is innovation and why did Atlassian do it so well?

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Innovation can be thought of as the creation of new ideas or products or processes that are conducive to an increase in value (Greenhalgh & Rogers, 2010). It is this value creation that places a firm in a competitive advantage, aids an efficient allocation of resources, improves staff morale and productivity translating to a better bottom line (Improving Employee Innovation, 2021).

For a company to be successful at innovation it must ensure that innovation initiatives align (Pisano 2015) with the overarching organisational strategy. Pisano suggests that a sound innovation strategy should comprise of the following criterion

  • How innovation will create value for customers

  • How the company will capitalise on that

  • What type of innovation to pursue

Atlassian Case Study

Atlassian is without a doubt one of Australia’s most innovative and biggest success stories in the software development arena.

Atlassian was founded on the premise that behind every great human achievement, there is a team and all the software produced echoes this. It is this team methodology that propelled founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar to today - a net worth of around $16B+ (Santoreneos 2020).

Research suggests that when considering why innovation becomes stagnant or ineffective in an organisation, companies tend to focus on fixing symptoms but not the root cause themselves (Loewe., et al, 2006).

Typically there can be four main areas that need to be considered when analysing the state of innovation in an organisation:

Leadership and organisation

We need to consider how well the founders instil a sense of innovation into teams below and how clearly this is communicated across the organisation.

Processes and tools

To have the correct processes, tools and resources available to teams, is critical to employees doing a good job.

There are clear steps involved when something goes from a conceptual idea through to launch – tools are needed for most of those steps. A product is developed is the path clear for steps involved.

People and skills

People are equipped with the right level of knowledge (trough training or coaching) in creative thinking, ideation, problem-solving techniques etc. considers the level of incentive offered for great work and the reward system in general, how well the organisation transfers tacit knowledge.

Innovation needs to be dispersed across every function of the organisation. For best results have a truly diverse organisation!

Culture and values

Despite registering a business name in 2001, it was not until 2007 that the values of the organisation were truly discovered and entrenched throughout the culture.

Behind these five bold core values lay powerful insights to how innovation lays at the very foundation of Atlassian. The values can be viewed here:

For example, “be the change you seek” encourages individuals to challenge the current status quo therefore ideating and formulating strategies on how to improve the value. Or, consider, “don’t #@!% with the customer” encourages employees to develop empathy so that they can be guided through the design/innovation process with the customers best intentions (Chee, 2019).

Beyond this, the company takes it brand seriously and works ferociously hard to ignite the innovation spark in employees. Think of a workplace that promotes:

  • Healthy lifestyles (think ping pong tables) so that employees can be as healthy as they can be and minds relaxed.

  • 20% of your salaried time free to you so that you can work on a project dear to your heart.

  • Sharing the same values in a mandatory requirement for getting a job.

  • Everything is transparent and transparency builds respect.

The Atlassian workforce is hired based on the alignment of the employees individual values in that of Atlassian. With employees living and breathing the very values described and innovation being thrust from the pinnacles of the organisation, it is hard to see how Atlassian could be anything else but innovative!


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