Moving #innovation from “permitted” to “possible”

As the dust settles on the Federal election results, the Turnbull government has already been taken to task for failing to get one of its key messages across to the public: how to take advantage of the economic, technological, scientific, social and cultural opportunities inherent in the “Innovation Agenda”.  It seems that the so-called “Ideas Boom” failed to resonate with much of the electorate because, apparently, no-one has explained to them how innovation actually impacts their lives.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 8.39.24 PMUnfortunately, I think it goes deeper than that: the recent campaign debates were limited to concepts of “traditional” job-creation; reliance on conventional relationships between the State, the private sector and individual citizens; and the priorities of (pre)serving the interests of public institutions such as 3-year Parliaments and even political parties themselves. The electorate may (perhaps rightly) feel short-changed by the level of the debate, but voters also need to take some responsibility for not challenging candidates to raise their game: where were the mainstream discussions on climate change, new technology, the future of “work”, digital disruption, scientific advances, and the changing attitudes towards end of life?

There is also a core misconception, that the government is responsible for fostering  innovation, that only public policy (and public resources?) can set the innovation agenda. I don’t believe it is the role of government to “make it happen”, and certainly, such an approach is not going to occur overnight. At best, government can create a framework, highlight best practice, and encourage appropriate activity. Just as I don’t think you can “teach” creativity (only identify, support and nurture it), I don’t think innovation is something to be determined from the outside. As with creative inspiration, innovation has to come from within: from employees, from customers, from suppliers, etc.

The risk of relying solely on governments or other vested interests to shape innovation is that our thinking becomes constrained by what is “permitted”, rather than what is “possible”.

On a related theme, it was refreshing to listen to a panel of speakers at a seminar on “Innovation from the inside out” held during Melbourne Startup Week. The key messages were:

  • how to instill purpose in any organisational change, business transformation or innovation project;
  • how to empower all levels of an organisation to make ideas happen; and
  • how to incentivize intrapreneurship?

This naturally leads to a discussion of developing more adaptable and resilient career paths. If you don’t have transferable skills, or if you not prepared to update your knowledge, or if you think of your career path as a straight linear projection, it will be much harder to cope with the demands of a flexible work environment. If you think of yourself as only ever performing a specific job function, or identify only as your profession or job title, or define yourself only by your formal qualifications, you will only ever think about what roles you may be “permitted” to perform, rather than seeing what career opportunities may be possible. As a careers adviser in the Victorian Government’s Skills and Job Centre network told his audience at a recent Small Business workshop: it’s not the responsibility of the government or your employer to manage your career. Notwithstanding upskilling initiatives and structured outplacement programs, we are each responsible for shaping our own destiny – especially in the increasingly on-demand economy.

Back to the main topic, I’ve been participating in a series of workshops on the Future of Work, Money, Ageing, Death, Democracy etc. hosted by the Re-Imagineers, an on-line ideas playground that builds co-created artifacts to support people-led innovation. The model is designed to help organisations draw on insights from their in-house knowledge and skills, customer experience and feedback, and external expertise to originate new ideas and innovative solutions from within their own resources, and which align with their values and those of their stakeholders. It’s still early days, but all of the discussions have identified some amazing ideas and possibilities.

The team from Re-Imagineers will be visiting Australia during July and August, so if you or your organisation would like to hear about the key learnings from these forums, especially as they impact sectors such as finance, health care and IT, please contact me via this blog, and I will make the relevant introductions.

Next week: Update on the New #Conglomerates

 

3 thoughts on “Moving #innovation from “permitted” to “possible”

  1. I do not think the dust has settled on the election, although the result is now clear.
    We are facing an uncertain future without the sort of strategic framework and leadership necessary to give Australians the confidence to invest, create, take risks, and generally be sure of our place in the world.
    Q&A last night was instructive.
    We now have Pauline Hansen about to start blathering her litany of cliches, mispronunciations, inconsistencies, and factually incorrect and intellectually compromised assertions in the Senate.
    Disturbingly, that is all before you get to the question of any agreement an individual may have with her views, assuming you can separate them from the blathering, but this is a fair reflection of the mood of at least part of the electorate, that just may have a balance of power on many questions.
    It might be entertaining from time to time, but will be a very poor launching pad for any real initiative to address the long term commercial and economic sustainability of Australian enterprises and entrepreneurial activity, and certainly will not be conducive to good government.

    • I missed Q&A, partly because I could predict how the “discussion” would evolve, partly because the format limits the opportunity for truly collaborative debating. This election has further revealed deep-seated socio-political fault lines that do not fall nicely within the “traditional” demographics of either the ALP or LNP (nor do they align with the minority/fringe/single-issue parties). So it’s a case of inner urban progressives vs outer suburban marginalised; mining communities vs regional agriculture; organised labour in the construction, manufacturing and public sectors vs flexible, self-directed digital nomads; rational secularism vs faith-based fundamentalism; outward-facing free traders vs inward-looking protectionists. Much of the election “debate” came down to the petty politics of envy, scare mongering, xenophobia, bloated budgets & pork barrelling handouts, and the notion of “jobs” as the universal panacea – tired themes which are all at odds with the real world that many young people actually want to inhabit. Party structures are increasingly irrelevant and only support factionalism and horse-trading of the worst kind (and as exploited in the Senate preferences for the last Parliament). I did the ABC Vote Compass, and it indicated I was equally aligned to the ALP, LNP and the Greens, based on their stated policies and my personal values. (It also suggested that none of them deserved my primary vote outright!) Which is why, whoever was going to form Government, Parliament has to adopt a much more collaborative approach….

      • I suspect we are pretty much aligned.
        The failure of the political status quo to accommodate the demands and simple disciplines of the 21st century is profound.

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