They say a week is a long time in politics, but certainly in the few short weeks since our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took office, the climate for innovation in Australia has changed radically. I particularly welcome these words from one of Mr Turnbull’s first speeches as PM:
“The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it.”
New team leading by example
At Salesforce we are very familiar with the new PM’s vision for a more innovative Australia and more dynamic start-up culture. At the highest level, Mr Turnbull has been conducting an ongoing dialogue with our EVP and former White House CIO, Vivek Kundra1. The new Digital Transformation Office he set up earlier this year2 as Minister for Communications was a very promising indication as to his approach.
His appointment of Christopher Pyne as Innovation Minister - with his strong links to the Education Sector - was equally promising because of the return of a Ministry-level focus for Innovation. But I am most excited by his appointment of Wyatt Roy as Assistant Minister. Having a Millennial in this position, far less inhibited by the legacy of the past, is a very encouraging sign about this new climate.3 Already he has called a Hackathon event4 ,and I hope that Salesforce can partner with the new Department to drive this new spirit.
I've written before - most recently in Business Spectator5 - about the measures the Government can implement to help foster a more entrepreneurial economy in Australia, particularly in the area of investment and funding. I certainly hope the new administration can begin to tackle some of these measures soon. But not everything is on the desk of the Government. Australian society needs to foster a new culture - one that is far less risk-averse and embraces failure more readily.
In order to innovate, companies and individuals alike need to feel they can experiment and take risks. The barriers to those experiments must be as low as possible in order to encourage a willingness to take risks.
Cloud and mobile technology means entrepreneurs can be far more agile in the way they can drive change, and has equally reduced the cost of failure. Equally, regulatory governance must be as easy to engage with and quick to complete. But there’s something else far more fundamental and less operational about how Australia must evolve.
“I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
Failure as a Badge of Honour
But what is most urgently required is a mindset shift in our attitude to failure. One of the biggest barriers to experimentation is the stigma of failure. Australians just don't celebrate failure in the way that the more innovative cultures do - such as the U.S. and Israel for instance. I cut my teeth in Boston and Silicon Valley and it was typical for the coffee houses to be a buzz with people exchanging their war stories of failure, but most importantly collect the learnings from those stories.
In Australia however, we seem ashamed of failure. We only want to talk about success. Yet where do we think those successes begin? In the learnings from our failures of course.
One area we can change this is to change the nature of the forums where we learn. The media could start to talk more about the projects that haven't worked and what we can learn from them, instead of focusing only on what worked. The industry events we attend to network and learn from can showcase these kind of crucial case studies instead of indulging only the successful experiences. We should see those individuals willing to share the lessons of their failures as influential authorities and mentors instead of pariahs.
All in all however, the pace of change already driven by the new administration means the signs are very encouraging and I look forward to seeing more tangible initiatives to create a world-class startup ecosystem in Australia.
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