Time to get back into the kitchen: Australia and innovation
Australia has always suffered from the cultural cringe – a belief that anything we produce from a cultural perspective cannot measure up to anything produced overseas. The same thinking, until recently, has applied to the culinary world – after all, how much skill goes into producing a meat pie? Yet this perception is changing: Australian chefs are now world-renowned; Aussie restaurants top global best-of lists annually.
Unfortunately this world-beater mentality is not being replicated in the business world, where we continue to see mixed messages around innovation. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), innovation in Australia has been on the increase. In 2007–08, 45% of businesses were actively seeking ways to innovate . Unfortunately the OECD notes that Australian organisations innovating are below the OECD average and well below comparable countries such as Canada, UK and New Zealand .
We’ve shifted from being innovative forward thinkers – a nation that gave the world the black box flight recorder, the ultrasound scanner, Wi-Fi, and of course the Hills hoist – to one where leaders are afraid (or lack the skills) to think big.
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating was recently asked what he was scared of. His response? “Incrementalism”, which he claimed kills everything. There must be space for the big ideas, he added, to dream the dream, to think of the new.
However, it’s difficult to think about new ideas when so few organisations are thinking beyond the next 18 months. Where is the room for innovation when the horizon is 18 months?
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business, 2007–08 (cat. no. 8166.0)
 OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2008, p. 233