This month, our Brisbane boards heard from Linda Ginger, Market Strategist on Innovation and Growth as she shared her opinion on the crucial role of innovation and how Australia can unlock its full potential. Linda outlines the five barriers to unleashing Australia’s lagging innovation.
Australia’s performance on the Global Innovation Index certainly isn’t energising the world with its innovation efforts. In 2018 we ranked 20th, three points up on the previous year and the first time we’ve pipped New Zealand and China. What is going on?
Australia has experienced 27 years of consistent economic prosperity. Could it be we’ve not suffered ‘real’ economic hardship and therefore never been driven to innovate for our survival? The problem with complacency is we’re likely to be lulled into a false sense of security with no contingency plan in times of adverse economic change.
For some, the mention of ‘innovation’ conjures up a thought we need a magnitude of an idea equivalent to ‘Apple’ or ‘Google’. Unfortunately, this thinking causes us to stop and do nothing. I like to think of innovation as a path to remaining relevant to customers, being more competitive or growing our business.
Innovation does bring a level of risk, however, the risk not to innovate is potentially far greater. Technology, pace of change, and increased competition due to globalisation and/ or changing business models means there is far greater chance our current businesses will not survive. Four years ago, in a publication entitled, ‘Big Bang, Short Fuse’, Deloitte predicted 32% of Australian industries would be disrupted in three years. This prediction is playing out on queue. Many businesses are not prepared, and are unlikely to be prepared for the next wave representing a further 31%.
Many countries leading the Global Innovation Index receive no government assistance to innovate. In contrast however, every level of Government in Australia is driving an innovation agenda with literally millions of dollars being expended via grants, research and equity funds, loans, availability to data, R&D tax incentives, start-up hubs, incubators and accelerators. With no hard data that Australian tax-payer’s money is being well directed, it begs the question as to whether Government is killing innovation with its kindness and/ or creating a culture that sees Government vs business as the instigator of innovation.
Fear of failure
A common term used in start-up sphere is ‘fail fast’ It is seen as a positive term vs a negative one. In the United States bankruptcy is considered a step on the journey, vs it being a game ender in risk averse Australia. It is true that historical high rates of innovation failure have been the trend since Thomas Edison, however, there are now science-based methodologies and processes that are enabling businesses to unshackle the risk-aversion and unleash innovation with confidence.
As an innovation player I think Australians talk a good talk about innovation but we don’t know how to buckle our boots and get walking the talk. Innovation is about a thinking, not a tax rebate. It is about observing what is around us, seeing into the future, talking to our customers about they want, need and value, and taking the necessary steps to ensure a sustainable business. But if you want to give Apple and Google a nudge then know how to play the game without risking the house.