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public relationsWhen I left journalism and started out in DIY business, fear of failure was a huge incentive to innovate. Most small businesses have to be creative to stay ahead in a competitive market. Large companies, burdened by process and inflexibility, rely on us minnows to do that.

But how can we, as a nation, be more innovative?

Creating Turnbull’s Nation of Innovators

How about inspiring us with a major Innovation statement within the Budget Speech, heralding a detailed Innovation Plan to form part of the election campaign, and beyond?

First the Vision: To become more innovative we need to change what we do and how we think. In other words, change our culture.

That’s why we public relations pros need to be involved. Changing culture is firstly about communicating new ways of thinking.

Change – from what, to what?

Defining our current not-innovative-enough culture requires clarity. What makes us proud or embarrassed; what is rewarded or discouraged; what we do well or don’t; what makes us work hard or shirk; and more. It’s what makes Aussies different from POMS, Germans, Italians and the rest of our forebears.

The Whitlam years probably created the biggest post-war cultural change.

The last time our leaders substantially changed the way we feel about ourselves might have been during the Howard years with the Olympics. Most of us who were around at the time remember the night we won the bid, and the ensuing period ending with the games changed our pride.

If Rudd/Gillard/Abbott changed us it was probably through watching the way they argued, and flip-flopped on commitments, and we flagged we didn’t like it. Then Turnbull committed to a more collaborative approach and as a nation we relaxed.

So, how can Turnbull define and inspire us to be more innovative? It’s a tough ask, and it’ll take more than talk.  A lot has been written about how culture change requires catalysts and processes. He needs to ‘do stuff’, visible wins, to keep us inspired.

Here are some ideas:

  1. We need to revisit red-tape reduction. A lot has been said on it before, but many rules and regulations are holding innovative businesses back.
  1. And we need to invest; that’s tax breaks and investment finance.
  1. We need to celebrate tall-poppies, not cut them down. So do we need reward programs, mainly recognition for success to make us proud.
  1. And we need ideas sharing. We can’t innovate alone. We need supportive colleagues and bosses. So do we need ideas-hubs, or other structures?
  1. Are we a nation of naysayers? Do we need to change the way we converse? Don’t kill ideas before they’re explored; let an idea, even one that at first looks doubtful, breath and morph.
  1. We need to become risk takers, not silly risks, but smart risks. How do we make that safe? How do we make some failures acceptable, as it is more so in the US?
  1. And we need to avoid the paralysis of indecision. We need to take a potentially good idea and develop it. That’s more investment finance. And do we need to make science cool?
  1. We need unions that celebrate hard work and bosses that reciprocate with more pay and more flexibility. That’s probably just being less dumb.
  1. We need to keep older, wiser folks in the work force.
  1. But we also need to move fossils off company boards and break up ‘old-boys’ networks.
  1. We need access to advice and encouragement. Is that like Austrade on steroids, but inward facing? We need to identify what ideas to chase and what to let go.
  1. We need to challenge socially-acceptable norms. Is that fewer holidays? Or more flexibility at work? Or improved paid parental leave?
  1. Then the biggest investment in new ideas might not be money, but time. And then more time to push our great big ideas to production. So should each of us make time in our personal lives to be creative, and should we have work days dedicated to creating something new?

Author Peter Wilkinson

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