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If Innovation is the Answer –what is the Question?

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Big Debate

As someone with more than a passing interest in the whole question of Strategic Direction and Strategy, it occurs to me that this debate arrived in the context of a political malaise of Government being so pre occupied with and distracted by a myriad of issues – none of which were either engaging or inspiring!

There is no doubt that all of these issues are important

  • The debt and deficit malaise
  • Terrorism
  • Royal Commissions (Child Abuse and Union corruption)
  • Productivity
  • Tax Reform
  • Stopping the Boats
  • Climate change
  • And the never ending game of “pass the parcel” in terms of leadership!

The change of tone in the conversation nationally is refreshing and the shift in focus to Innovation and Agility is at least an attempt to galvanise a sense of hope and aspiration – for some!

Innovation is a symbolic word in business and in many ways it creates a sense of excitement and progress

When we talk about Innovation, what are we really talking about?

A whole bunch of new products and services which “change the world” and / or make a difference in the lives of a consumer?”

It is also possible we are talking about new business models which will transform the way we work and live.

What we know about innovation is that it happens in a variety of ways – mostly when people are focused on solving a problem and or meeting a consumer want. Sometimes it is the problem they solve and at other times the innovation occurs along the way –as a by-product! In a very few cases there is an individual who is seriously gifted in some way – Steve Jobs is one, Elon Musk is another who through rare talent combined with timing and opportunity have changed the world through their capacity to innovate. Innovation without clear purpose is random creativity!

In the area of strategy and strategy development what I know is that it is the question, which creates the context for the conversation?

There is no doubt in Australia we claim a long history of being innovative but in the context of the current Innovation statement what are we trying to achieve?

What are the really big questions?

  • How do we position Australia to contribute globally to a prosperous, safer and healthy world?
  • How do we optimize the potential of the continent of Australian human and natural resources?
  • What is Australia’s National Water Strategy?
  • What is Australia’s National Land Management Strategy
  • Is there a visible and well articulated Infrastructure Strategy
  • How do we create wealth for a Nation so its citizens can enjoy a great lifestyle?
  • How do we create a business environment, which is an incentive for people young and old to manage their own employment, create their own business and create employment for others? (Instead of expecting others to do it for them?)

There are many other important questions and issues all of which deserve attention but not to the exclusion of the big questions:

  • Defence
  • Education
  • Health
  • Social Welfare
  • The Arts
  • Many others

There is no debate about the importance of these issues – in fact it is the role of Government to perform these functions – to provide the Public Services that individuals cannot do for themselves.

BUT if we are preoccupied with these issues we leave the big questions not addressed.

If we are doubtful about the fact that business is the major (only) wealth creation institution in society then the services we so desperately need will be very difficult to fund.

Surely it’s a no brainer!

A robust functioning business sector, which is innovative, agile and productive, is the platform for everything.

While it is trite to equate a country with a business (or even a social enterprise?) it is interesting to reflect on some Big Questions in business:

Who are we?

Why are we here?

What do we stand for?

Where are we going?

What markets will we compete in?

Do we have a competitive advantage?

How will we get there?

How will we know we are there?

How will we measure progress?

All of these questions are critical in a strategic conversation in any business big or small and there are many more?

To avoid them is to doom a business to mediocrity. The great business has these questions front and centre as a matter of practice.

In a business context when a major corporation is underperforming it becomes the subject of speculation and there is the possibility of sale and or a takeover! We see this as the natural process, which occurs in a capitalist market.

So maybe one big question is “How does Australia make a difference in the world with innovation as one platform?”

Undoubtedly there will be many others!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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