Innovation… Australia’s approach is flawed.

By: Joan MacDougal - April 12, 2016

Why Australia’s Modern Approach to Innovation is Wrong…

Australian’s have always sought out innovation. Our early steps towards nationhood demanded it. We’ve had to solve big problems because of our lack of population size. We’ve had to solve big problems because of the sheer size of Australia and we’ve had to solve big problems because we’re a long way from the rest of the world. Historically, when the demands were of a social or security purpose the Australian people gladly funded government investment into meeting these needs. And Australia built world class solutions. Our real problem with innovation is we’ve never been good at commercialising it. This is especially true for private innovators or entrepreneurs.

Over the years I’ve heard many excuses for why our ideas are commercialised in other countries. For me it comes down to one simple truth, we are not a nation of good marketers. Marketing is not an intrinsic characteristic we look for in our leaders. Particularly our political and investment leaders. One analogy that rings true for me is that our leaders in government and our investment institutions today are like the red coats that ruled over the convicts that were brought here 200 years ago. The innovation coming from the convicts is treated with skepticism and a lack of trust and vision.

It’s worth mentioning that when I talk marketing I talk real marketing. Great marketing should start in the boardroom or the management center of every enterprise, whether government or  business. When marketing is the driving force around these tables great things can and will happen. When I work with leaders in these environments I throw out any barriers that inhibit grand thinking. Usually the first thing I hide is the budget. I like to ask leaders; in an ideal world where there were no constraints on what you could do, what would you do to achieve your purpose? You would be amazed how much this frees up people and inspires creativity.

So what is really needed in Australia to become an innovation nation? First and foremost it’s a change of leadership culture. The success of any new venture is proper marketing. Leadership needs to get into the old 4 ‘P’s! If the product development and research is done properly. If the distribution strategies are examined and quantified. If the pricing and funding required are closely analysed and balanced against risk and the promotion plan and budget can be accommodated, then the chance of failures will be radically minimized. Leadership in this country has to have more of a ‘can do’ mindset, then an off the cuff ‘it won’t work’ mindset.

Business in Australia is given tax incentives to stimulate innovation. It’s my belief that if business was better at entrepreneurship Australia would emerge as a country of innovative thinkers who can take imagination into commercial reality. Ideally the role governments should be that of guarantor! If we become a nation with a leadership culture of strong marketing, the cost of innovation to the tax payer in the role of guarantor will be low.

I stipulate one caveat. Dear business…. If you use the tax benefits, if you use the infrastructure and resources of a country to innovate; be a good corporate citizen and pay your taxes.


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