Innovation Systems

A new report has been created by Terry Cutler, the Chairman of the Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, and has stated that Australia’s innovation system need to increase the amount of money invested in University Research to remain relevant. He warns that “Australia’s innovation system must be urgently remodeled.”

The ‘Innovation System’ is incredibly complex, and I’m not even going to begin to pretend to be an expert on it. But in an interview with Smart Company recently, Cutler referred to some areas where such remodeling should take place. Innovation is a funny game, and the following are some of my thoughts on where the whole innovation thing is headed.

1) International Firms = International Communities

Cutler talks about how many of the firms within Australia are not globally orientated, which leads to poorer innovation outcomes. I have to say that a lot of what happens in Australia is quite ‘aussie focused’ but I think it depends on what you define as ‘firms.’ The larger firms in Australia tend to advertise that they are global, and some truly are, but many only dabble in international business. I think we are just discovering that the greatest of untapped resources are in small, organic communities that are springing up around the world at the moment and providing real concept innovation opportunities to those willing to be a part of them. The nascent but growing Ruby on Rails network is one such example of a small network of real industry pioneers, connecting and working collaboratively around the world.

 Railscamp UK 2008

How we create and participate in new communities such as these, is a key innovation question for me. Funky business indeed. The challenge for ‘innovative global firms’ is how to connect with such small communities.

The mining boom = by definition an innovation opportunity

Cutler refers to the mining boom as hiding problems we have, because of the sheer increase in revenue generated from it. It’s true that whilst good times are rolling people can often put off innovation because of the assumed success in the way things are going. Many large companies struggle with this exact problem, putting off till tomorrow a systemic problem which needs to be solved sooner, rather than when it festers later.

The key is, to continue to scour the landscape for new opportunities whilst the gravy train is-a-coming. In mining, we have a unique opportunity to lead the conversation around how to make mining more sustainable and efficient. Bio-mimicry is now a known idea, with a key community following it around the world. A community
(see point 1 above) which could hold real possibilities for the Australian mining scene. Our best talent is making its way to Perth and WA to be a part of the boom. Perhaps it’s time to launch a idea-harvest around how mining can learn from nature, and swing in those funky folk who ‘get’ bio mimicry?

Export and the infatuation with Scandinavia

We here in Australia have a real inferiority complex with the rest of the world. Australians can do their very best work here in oz and go unrecognised. But, once they do something that receives ANY slight amount of plaudits from anywhere else in the world (especially in the US) we laud them as being ‘ours’ and being ‘amazing.’

Which is why this whole infatuation with the Scandinavians frustrates me slightly. Yes, the Fins, Norwegians et al have an amazing innovation culture. They ‘outsource talent’ and their biggest export industry is ‘knowledge.’ Finland especially has moved from a resource driven economy to a knowledge driven economy very quickly. But, this is easier to do in a country so close geographically to the Europe Union and other locations. It is harder to do down here in Australia. People continue to refer to the Fins as the example that we should copy but clearly there are some things we need to differently:

  1. Communicate better with Asia. About a third of the worlds population live just above our Australian heads. Why haven’t you (or I, for that matter) visited Thailand, Hong-Kong, Indonesia, The Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore or the obvious India and China yet? Many people are, but not enough.
  2. Finland invested heavily in ICT’s. Australia claim to be, but with only 5-6% of the population understanding what RSS is, I think we are a long way off. Don’t even mention our dawdling broadband network and the politicking between the G9 to fix the problem.
  3. See International Organisation = International Communities again. We need more communication between communities of people, internationally.

These are just some of my observations about the whole innovation game here in Australia. I’d be interested to hear about any other innovation systems you might have heard of, especially as they are involved within large organisations.

Digital Nomad and my flexi-tools for value creation

What are the tools that you use to get around town and do ‘your thing?’ In the last few weeks, I’ve seen an increase in the number of people posting about what they use to remain virtual in the new world of work. I think we are all heading towards a world which is not so organisation based, but vocational and community based. The first part of that long journey is happening now – with people discussing how they continue to remain productive and valuable (to clients, networks and family) without remaining geographically constrained.

Hugh McLeod wrote recently about Digital Nomands whilst a blog he referred to in that post, Digital Nomads, contained a post from Jay White discussing how he went about mixing his personal and professional life, which I found interesting. Cameron McGrane is also always up-to-date on different ways to get create value from anywhere. So, I thought I would add to the chorus and discuss how I am trying to get a little less ‘place bound’ and more ‘value orientated’ as we move towards a vocational community future.

iGoogle and GMail: Jay alluded to this in his post, and I probably don’t utilise it enough, but the fact that it holds and presents my personal email to me as well as my RSS feeds and other apps means that I can access my conversations (not just my emails) easily from anywhere. In the future, I’m keen to continue adding to the functions I use iGoogle for.

 eLance:I’ve only just discovered this, and truth be-told, I haven’t yet won work on it or contracted work out through it but it is certainly a space I will utilise going forwards. The ability to easily delegate and sub-contract work out is huge for me and promises much. I look forward to experimenting with uses for this in the coming months.

twitter:Is on my Treo primarily, which goes with me everywhere. It’s a mobile community, and allows me to keep in touch with most things going on to a key group of people in my life. It also allows me to connect with new, interesting people for both work and play.

campfire: Again, I’ve just discovered this but look forward to using it more to have (and record) conversations from anywhere. It’s been helpful mainly at the moment working with Ross Hill on a variety of different things, but promises much in terms of creating global discussions (read, facilitating vocational communities).

Monkey on the back: This one is a fun one, but helps in keeping things on the agenda. You can place a monkey on someones back, which kindly reminds people to complete or do the tasks you set them. It’s passive aggressive, and puts a smile on peoples faces rather than invoking that ‘crap, I forgot to do that’ feeling commonly associated with forgotten tasks.

Crumpler bag: This one is often forgotten by many digital nomads, but is probably one of the most important. I upgraded to a Crumpler backpack earlier this year and have not looked back. It carries everything I need: Laptop, cords, books, notebooks, jumpers etc as well as numerous other things which you may or may not need to include on a day out. Check out flickr for more evidence of people using their bags to carry their lives.

I also use a host of others, such as delicious, friendfeed, facebook, amazon, iTunes, laptops, skype and many more. Above, I have tried to highlight some of the other tools which may prove useful for your use in creating a less location based work-life.

Liars Poker book review

Todays been an interesting one, as I’ve been waiting for removalists to come along and provide me quotes for how much it will cost to move ‘stuff.’ It’s also given me some space to consider the book I’m almost finished, and thus quickly write a someone pre-emptive book review on it between appointments.


The book is Liars Poker, by Michael Lewis, and so far it has been an interesting read. The book is set in the heady days of the 80’s based in the Salomon Brothers trading firm on Wall St. As for the authors tone, imagine everything Gordon Gecko meets a less polished Moneyball.

The book traces the path of a young graduate employee at Salomon Brothers who has fallen into the position through sheer luck. The author, in this case, is actually writing from the first person which provides great interest to me as a fan of Michael Lewis’ later work, Moneyball and The Blind Side. This first person voice provides a great perspective on a lot of the things that went on in the 80’s generally, including the rise and rise of the mortgage market in the US at the time, as well as the effects of capitalism on the elite traders of the world. It actually really helped by basic understand of the mess we’re in now with the Sub-Prime Crisis, as most of the damage has stemmed from the decisions made by guys Lewis writes about in Liars Poker.

All up, the book so far is another gem and goes on the list of highly recommended. It hasn’t has such great takeaways as far as ‘things I can put into use’ but still provides a different way to view the world for a time and better understand the system of global finance. 3.5 squiggly-lines our of 5!

Brand Me – The Chris Brogan eBook

I’m not a huge fan of the ol’ eBook – but I’m quickly learning to appreciate and value the contents of them as I go. The latest one that struck me – Chris Brograns ‘Personal Branding for the Business Professional.’

As most of you will know by now, I’m a huge advocate of the Brand Me lifestyle. Tom Peters wrote the seminal article in Fast Company some 12 years ago now, but Chris’s latest work comes from a place of true experience rather than the ‘Practicum/Theory’ piece from Tom. Have a read and see what you think – I particularly liked the following points:

 1) Your Own Company: Each opportunity is a chance to learn a new skill and add a new experience. I too don’t really see a resume in the traditional sense. I want a story to tell someone about what I have done. I try to hunt for interesting projects as often as I can.

2) Innovate and be a scout. I’ve read a lot about this recently. I think it falls upon you as a personal brand to be innovative and blaze a new trail…even if the trail is small/not often used or even entirely uninteresting to most people. The fact that you have created the path is evidence of another option or experience someone might use in their own project. Blaze often, blaze weird things and then see where the path takes you. Often, I find several paths I beat seem to come together to create one really valuable path for my client/project/partners.

3) Read widely: I read often. Someone once told me that the average Corporate CEO reads about 12 books a year. As CEO of Brand You, it’s a responsibility that you must accept. Check out different blogs like 800-CEO-read and build an Amazon wish-list which people can check out on Friendfeed etc etc to build a list of good titles that may pique your business professional bone, then link/blog about them. Get Love is the Killer Ap for a good introduction to the professional-reading world, and become a love cat.

Finally – follow interesting brands on the net. Chris alludes to many in his eBook but some of my favourites are: Pat Allan, who is living the next installment of the brand me life by connecting with a truly (amazing) global vocational community, Col Duthie. who is trying to help blaze a trail of international co-existence between the business, government and non-profit sectors and Ross Hill , who has just gotten back on the blogging-bike to better discuss his growing internet empire.