Innovation in Australia – Dead or Alive?

A 5 point plan of attack!

A recent report by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Chubb, outlined that Australia is not performing in terms of innovation and that we are slipping behind – he explained 5 reasons for this.

In this 5 part blog series I will take an informal yet instructive look at how we can address these 5 key points at the grassroots level.

The Lazy Nation? Addressing Australia’s complacency in Innovation – Part 1

Recently I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “From clever to complacent: Australia falling behind on innovation, says Chief Scientist”. The article outlined that Australia is quickly slipping behind other developed nations on the innovation front due to a lack of long-term planning. I read the article in full and then closed the lid of my laptop.

I was a little shocked and saddened because I knew what I read was true. By nature I like to think that I am a very positive person. I deliberately look for the light in everything I do and see around me; but this article momentarily changed my usually optimistic outlook.

For five years I have been producing Creative Innovation – a conference that looks to find innovative solutions to the great problems of today to make them opportunities for the future. Reading the words of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, made me think deeply about the role of Creative Innovation and my role as a supporter of fostering innovation in our country.

Professor Chubb is an extremely well respected scientist and while I am not happy about the state of Australia’s strategy for innovation, I am happy he highlighted his concerns. The article (which I encourage everyone to read) outlines 5 reasons why Australia is not performing in terms of innovation. Over the next 5 blog posts I will share my thoughts on how we can address these issues in Australia. The first topic is Australia’s lack of inventiveness.

Australia is not an inventive nation compared to other OECD nations; which is supported by comparing the number of companies developing innovations new to the world here and globally (1.5 per cent compared with 10 to 40 per cent).

When I hear these statistics it really hits home the legwork we must do as a nation to foster a culture of innovation and inventiveness. Australian businesses must be more innovative in their approach to product and service development, and the Australian Government needs to foster growth through ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, programs and support.

My top four recommendations for how businesses can increase their inventiveness are:

Step outside your box and get into the right side of your brain – don’t be afraid to think differently! To be inventive we all need to think in new ways and allow our brain to be creative and strategic at the same time. When you are faced with a problem get out of the office and seek the solution as you walk around your city, sit in a park, meditate, sing in a choir, cook a meal or meander through a library. It’s too hard on yourself to think you will develop new solutions by doing the same thing day-in and day-out. I have often been told that I think a differently, and I take it as a compliment. If you think the same way as everyone else – you will end up with the same answers as everyone else – and what we need now more than ever are new answers.

Every voice matters – encourage new ideas from everyone in your organisation! Don’t take on board all the responsibility for fostering inventiveness in your organisation and don’t think that only people in Marketing or R&D are inventive. Ideas can come from a Customer Support Officer, a Business Development Manager, A Board Member, a Personal Assistant or a Managing Director. Get your diverse people around a table and ask them to go wild, be creative, and above all – dream the impossible! And when you implement your project and it fails – don’t sweep it away – celebrate it. Yes, you read correctly, celebrate your failures. It’s important that your team understands that there is value and learning in failing to ensure they don’t fear putting new ideas on the table.

Encourage positive human collisions! In addition to the point above, it’s vital that organisations encourage and foster diversity and encourage people from different backgrounds to interact with each other.

Whether you work in a bank, a social enterprise, a laboratory or an advertising agency, you will reap the rewards of connecting people from different backgrounds and generations as they will debate an idea and share new insights. Make this a regular occurrence with your team and form project groups from people throughout the business so that ideas are shared, debates are had and collaboration is the ultimate winner. When positive friction and creative abrasion occurs between people, creativity can flourish to develop innovative solutions.

Read outside your comfort zone! Reading opens your brain to new ideas so it’s vital to read about a broad range of topics. Whatever you are interested in you should read about it, regardless of whether you think it makes sense (trust me – it will soon). By training your brain to read new and varied information you are also training your brain to draw connections between unrelated topics.

By employing these four tactics in your organisation you will start to shift your culture and move towards a disruptive thinking model that challenges the status quo. Most of us know how to run a business. We need to know how to run an innovative business – and that can be taught.

So until next time when I talk to you about how to be less risk averse, remember that it’s okay to be disruptive and think outside the box!

Let’s change the world one voice at a time!

To inspire you and your team’s creative juices, please watch and share my recent TEDxMelbourne talk viewed by over 13,000 people so far!:) We are changing the world, one voice at a time!

And follow me on Twitter @TaniadeJong