Regions - the Big Picture

Insights and commentary on the big picture issues that regions face – jobs, digital disruption, collaboration, startups, energy, environment, export and innovation.

Insights and commentary on the big picture issues that regions face – jobs, digital disruption, collaboration, startups, energy, environment, export and innovation.

We must attack and defend at the same time.


Australia is being impacted on two fronts – by trade threats and digital disruption. 

Our reliance on selling one product “minerals” into one market “China” leaves us highly exposed. Relying too heavily on minerals, food and education as our major exports, leaves us vulnerable to political whims and fancies, trade wars and real wars – none of which are controllable by any Australian government.

And digital disruption has not gone away. The impact of over 20 disruptive technologies on jobs and businesses continues. We have barely yet woken up to the threat, let alone created any real strategies to deal with the impacts.

We have to defend our families, children, grandchildren, businesses and regions against trade threats AND digital disruption.

Which means - diversification - both in the creation of products and services, as well as in our overseas markets. 

Turnbull was right. We need an innovation nation. 

We already have the potential for an innovation nation. We are just not managing the resources we have - the innovators in our towns, cities and regions, in our schools, universities and TAFEs. In our brains, our eyes and our hands.

Selling dirt to China is not the only tool in the toolbox. 

We have many others. And we have to use them.

For we live in precarious times.

In Australia, it makes strategic sense to significantly increase the number of trade partners we engage with and to diversify production across a much wider range of products and services. We cannot afford to become captive to trading partners with a very different view of “shared value.” Selling just one big egg from one big basket.

We need to mitigate risk. Quickly.

According to Roy Morgan, unemployment in January 2019 was 9.7%, with another 8.3% of the workforce underemployed. So 18% of Australians are now either unemployed or underemployed. Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia, not the perception of unemployment.

Currently, digital disruption and its impacts on jobs is viewed a bit like climate change. The impacts are off somewhere in the future. Which is correct. But that future is closer than you might think.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Cloud services, BIM, GPS, 5G, Cryptocurrency, Cybersecurity, Drones, Digital Identity, Holochain, IP protection, Mobility, Nanotechnology, Robots, Solar and Battery Storage, Virtual Reality, Amazon, airbnb, Freelancer, Uber etc, not forgetting climate change and “fake news” all present threats to jobs in Australia and across the world, as well as opportunity.

And jobs do not exist in a vacuum.

Employers offer jobs. And employers make people redundant. And big businesses answer to shareholders wanting profit. And small businesses have to pay wages.

And the current myth that employers won’t replace people with technology, but will retain workers and just reallocate tasks is just a wish and a dream. The reality is that technology comes in the door and people go out.

Even in organisations that have more than enough money to redeploy people if they choose to, such as banks – they don’t. The ANZ has cut 5,250 employees. The National Australia Bank has retrenched 6,000 employees.

The big four banks in Australia are expected to shed up to 40,000 jobs over five years. Some new jobs in technology and analytics will be created, but overall it’s net job loss. Telstra is cutting 8,000 jobs. Optus is cutting 400. And so on.

So even in companies with big profits, people are not being redeployed, they are being unemployed.

This trend will continue.

And in the next ten to fifteen years, another 4.5 million jobs will be threatened as AI and other technologies really take hold. Which for our children and grandchildren in Australian schools is going to be a big challenge.

So we need to start understanding, managing and pushing back against this threat, before it becomes a promise. 

Youth unemployment is a problem. “Over 40 years old” unemployment is a problem. Job transition is a problem. 

Defend.

We have an abundance of productive industries in Australia. And an abundance of resources. We have the capacity to reframe what we do and where we focus our efforts. We have a world-class innovation engine in CSIRO/Data61 and our universities. 

Attack.

We can add value to products and services through research, design, branding and marketing. But we have to start with a “big picture” vision, joining the pieces of the puzzle. Bringing it all together.

The opportunity is there in front of us. “We are a big country, with a small population but we are ratshit at collaboration.” Only by collaborating and showcasing what we (Australia) can offer to the world will we be successful.

The tools and solutions are on the table. We just need to pick them up and use them.

And…a lot of people are going to miss out. Even more than before.

Working with partners we must explore new options to address the issue of exclusion. 

Not everyone has the skills or capabilities to benefit from digital disruption. We need to establish a framework of opportunities that recognise individual contributions in different ways. We have to move our thinking beyond “effort = wage”, to Universal Basic Income, Tokenisation. Job creation. And what else?

Thinking about solutions to this issue has barely begun. But thinking has begun. It just needs to go further and faster.

There is still a lot more to be done. And we have hardly started. 

The RED Toolbox, the ED Toolbox and the Australian Innovation Showcase are tools to defend and attack trade threats and digital disruption.

Join the platform and let’s see what we can do. Collaboratively.

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Pandora’s box, algorithms and the future of work and jobs.

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In Greek myth, Pandora’s box was a divine gift, which on opening released strife, care, pride, hatred and despair into the world. The last thing remaining inside the box was hope.

Pandora was created to be curious and the urge to open the box overcame her. Zeus knew that her curiosity meant that she could not stop herself from opening the box, especially when he had told her that she must not do so.

Our curiosity has brought us to where we are today, with a wide range of tools at our fingertips, in the midst of a digital revolution, which connects us all.

As always, threat and opportunity stand side by side before us. Yet with hope and wisdom helping us to manage our choices, we have never had more opportunity to deal with the strife, care, pride, hatred and despair of the world.

But the opportunities come with challenges.

By working together, the challenges can be managed if we are able to move forward from the attitudes of the 20th Century world of conflict, separation and disconnection into a joined up, shared value and collaborative world.

And that competition between old world thinking and new world opportunity is being played out every day, in forums and meeting places across the planet.

The technologies of communication, connection and collaboration continue to join up individuals, companies, regions and countries across the planet, pushing us in one direction only – towards association and fellowship.

And the technologies also magnify the “power of one”, offering all individuals the additional power of “shared value” and collaboration.

If you are not familiar with shared value, watch Michael Porter, Harvard Business School - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jesEa_-Pgp8

Professor Porter has been promoting the concept of shared value since 2011, and the lights are finally going on.

What role should business have in society? In a joined up world, business can no longer just do its old thing. It has to do a new thing. It has to accept, contribute to and reinforce its position in support of every community and connected region, state, country and society.

To help fix and improve things. To find better ways to do things. To differentiate itself from other businesses. To create and deliver strategy. And to make profit.

We can transform separation into collaboration, and selfishness into sharing. The digital revolution is joining everything up. We just need to align our minds and our actions with the new opportunity. Which will take time.

But every day, there is more connection, collaboration and integration of devices and networks, and ultimately the human beings that use them.

Us.

From a personal perspective, we are all the result of an algorithm – DNA, the organising principle that transforms spacedust (elements) into a living organism at the beginning of every individual human life and back into dust again at the end.

An algorithm is simply a set of rules that defines a sequence of operations. In a computer system, it is the logic written by software developers to produce an output from a given input.

All of our algorithms are created with intention (whatever that might be), and they are becoming increasingly useful in the digital revolution as the cost of storage decreases, the speed of processing increases and more and more devices across the planet are connected in multiple ways.

We have been “human” for about 200,000 years, a relatively short period in the 3.8 billion year history of life on the Earth.

Which itself, is about a third of the time since the Big Bang, which gave rise to the universe 13.8 billion years ago and created all the spacedust that ultimately led to me, you and the rest of us, through the mechanism of DNA, an algorithm which originated as a replication mechanism sometime late in early life history.

A long time ago. The sophistication and elegance of DNA is apparent. It is mapped, decoded and studied in laboratories across the world. We have a personal interest in DNA.

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Because one end result of all that evolutionary trialing and testing of different options was homo sapiens - humankind with our special range of capacities – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual – that make us different from the rest of life on the planet. Which has all been programmed through multiple variations of DNA replication to give us the amazing world we live in.

And here we sit, in 2018 with a growing capacity (through the digital revolution) to use our collective intelligence to do stuff. Including creating increasingly sophisticated algorithms of our own. Not as sophisticated as DNA. But you have to start somewhere.

So what are we doing with our algorithms? What is our creative vision? Mainly profiling, ordering and ranking.

Each year, Google changes its search algorithm about 500 times to rank and order websites in search engine results. Facebook uses its algorithm to prioritise content in News Feeds, based on comments and likes, shares and your profile.

Instagram uses its algorithm to create a feed based on past behaviour. Twitter uses its algorithm to present content based on accounts you interact with and tweets you engage with. And Linkedin uses its algorithm to present content based on likes, views and shares.

All of these platforms use content to attract customers, but they don’t create it themselves. So content creators are encouraged and rewarded with higher rankings, more approvals and relevance to other users. Attractive and relevant content generates more visits and views, which then creates an environment for sales messages of various kinds. The platforms then use the customer profiles generated by the algorithms above, and match them with product and service messages and advertisements. To make money.

But it is not just social media platforms that use algorithms and profiles.

Businesses and organisations of all kinds create profiles and use algorithms to improve customer relationships, and increase the accuracy of leads generation and prediction. About a third of finance tasks in corporates are already done by algorithms and robots, with more to come.

Data sources based on customer profile and history are combined with other datasets to generate a wider view of the customer. And government departments across the world are now doing the same thing as business. In some cases taking this to an extreme.

In China, the “Social Credit” system has been introduced for command and control. Think George Orwell’s novel 1984 and you get the idea.

Worried by the prospect of wider social unrest after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the government was concerned about the country’s future.

Twenty years on, the Chinese government has solved that problem through the use of profiling, facial recognition software, and algorithms standardising an assessment of citizen and business, and generating economic and social reputation or “credit”.

Align this capability with the widespread adoption and use of electronic payment systems for buying goods and services and control becomes absolute. If you can’t accept money, buy or pay for stuff, you are somewhat knackered.

The government can reward or punish according to algorithms. The ability to work, the ability to pay for products and services can all be controlled. And an individual’s rating can be connected to the rating of family, friends and associates, allowing not just individuals but also associates to be blacklisted and denied access to services of all kinds, at the whim of government.

So the power of social disapproval can be brought to bear as well. This would be an impressive scenario in a science fiction story. But this is the real world.

By 2020, or soon after, health, location, insurance, private messages, financial status, payment history, political activity, preferred newspapers, shopping history and dating behaviour will be included within the system.

The Social Credit system will be limited to Mainland China. So they say. We’ll see how long it takes before Hong Kong is included.

Which drags all citizens and businesses in Australia and elsewhere into the world of Geopolitics. It is no longer enough just to know about producing goods and services. We all now need a more refined understanding of the geopolitics of the interconnected, international environment we now operate in.

And this Pandora’s Box of new threat and opportunity is not limited to one country alone.

It will affect all countries in different ways. And organisations of all shapes and sizes have to understand the many dimensions to digital change – both within the business and across all external relationships.

So we need to think more deeply about whom we are engaging with. Which businesses. Which organisations and which countries.

The NSA has been hovering up data from multiple databases and data sources for years. Edward Snowden highlighted some of the activities the American and British spy agencies are involved with, when he became a “whistle blower” in 2013, leaking insights on NSA and GCHQ activities to the world at large.

As a result, we are all now more aware of surveillance and data gathering activities, and even more aware that privacy is a fiction, that cannot be protected. Which depends of course, on whom we are protecting our privacy from.

Treat everything as though it is on a post card and you won’t be surprised.

The Patriot Act and Freedom Act powers are wide ranging and allow the FBI to request information from American citizens anywhere in the world, working for any organisation, and then demand they not let anybody know they provided information, or tell anybody that anything had even happened.

And the USA is one of our friends, a country with similar values to our own. One of the “Five Eyes” countries that share intelligence on a regular basis.

The Social Credit system of course now offers China the same opportunity to demand information from its citizens and diaspora anywhere on the planet, but leveraged in a different way.

The Chinese diaspora of 50 million Chinese is spread across the world, and the Social Credit system provides the leverage to request “help” and “information” from individuals anywhere at any time. “We would like your help with XXX. Help us and your family will be rewarded with credit.” And you can all work out what the opposing proposition might be.

Not saying that this will happen. But once Pandora’s box is open...

And when you consider the growing range of activities engaged in by the Chinese government including terraforming reefs and sandbars, hundreds of miles from home, then it is obvious that we should consider Australia’s future and our business and national relationships carefully.

If we are going to engage more actively with the world, we need to be confident about the nature and objectives of all the countries and businesses we engage with. Legal systems only offer limited protection. What are the values of the organisations and the countries we are engaging with? Do they match our own?

Luckily, at this time we export mainly iron ore, coal, wool, wood, meat, copper, other minerals, food and drink. Not a lot of intellectual property going out the door.

But as we diversify and focus on adding value to our productive industries through research, design and branding, we have to become more careful in all our trade relations, because we are now dealing with countries with a different attitude to property and theft than we have.

Profiling, algorithms, data processing, trade and customer engagement have all evolved. But our legal systems and enforcement haven’t kept pace with the speed of change. So in the absence of reliable international law with enforceable rules and regulations, we need to treat this new environment like the “wild west”. Be cautious and aware, and tread carefully.

For Australia, it would make strategic sense to widen significantly the number of trade partners we engage with and to diversify production across a wider range of products and services. We cannot afford to become captive to trading partners with a very different view of “shared value.”

We need to mitigate risk. Quickly.

Profiling, facial recognition software, and algorithms linked together are a powerful combination. And will become even more powerful as the years progress. Add weaponry to that mix and science fiction becomes a new reality.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HipTO_7mUOw

That’s the potential downside of where we are heading. The upside is the option of using profiling, algorithms and data processing for positive change.

But we need to learn a lesson from the algorithm of our DNA, and widen our perspective in creating solutions to incorporate more human dimensions to measure success.

Can we call a city a “smart city” if it only offers physical solutions like smart parking, traffic lights, water meters and dog licensing. Maybe “smart” is too boastful a description. Autonomic may be more accurate.

Can we incorporate all human dimensions into the creation of smart cities – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual?

Is a smart city smart if it has homeless people on the streets? Is a smart city smart if it has hundreds of ageing individuals living in isolation, loneliness and desperation? Is a smart city smart if it doesn’t design “common – unity” (community) into its architecture and town planning?

We have to design humancentric cities not infrastructure centric cities.

Put the human being at the centre of a living system and everything changes. Put the human at the centre of an education system and everything changes. Put the human at the centre of a health system and everything changes. Currently, the systems in all cases process human beings like an assembly line. 20th century thinking – conveyor belt, not 21st century thinking – wholism.

Design thinking and human centered solutions shift the thinking. Innovation comes from the grassroots and edges. Without participation at every stage from design to ongoing engagement, there is no smart city.

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Technology now exists to create autonomous weapons that can select and kill

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human targets without supervision. For an idea of what that might mean, watch

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And we have to move beyond “That’s not the job of the council” or “That’s not the job of this department” to a more holistic way of thinking. And inclusion. Because, that is the job of every human being. We are holistic.

We can’t compartmentalise everything. And deal with all issues separately, as though they were not connected in some way. We have to recognise and respond to the interconnected nature of the world we live in and plan accordingly.

Chinese walls are no longer Chinese walls (If they ever were). Conflicts of interest need dealing with not by virtual separation, but by actual separation. Or by collaboration and shared value.

Just like the concept of de-identification of personal data, some ideas no longer have any practical value. Re-identification of personal data is now so easy, due to access to data sources, algorithms and processing power that individuals need to make decisions about their own personal data regardless of promises of privacy.

Treat everything as though it is on a post card and you won’t be surprised.

This raises the issue of who should own personal data anyway, and how management of personal data should be conducted. Blockchain provides a mechanism for decision making to be managed directly by individual citizens, through the creation of an encrypted individual personal identity passport.

In time, individuals can then make decisions about personal data and how it should be used, that will no longer rely on government, banks, insurance and medical companies to act as trust broker. Individuals will be able to manage these relationships through “smart contracts” embedded in blockchain, distributed ledger networks.

Our technology is increasingly interconnected. But we are responsible for creating the software tools and algorithms that we all use. They don’t create themselves.

Is the imagination and vision for the software development and algorithms the best it could be? As visionary as it could be? As creative as it could be?

The limits are ours. What we do with the new tools requires “big, interconnected picture” thinking.

We can define the scope. Telescope – far seeing. Or microscope – small seeing. And then use the data to achieve new things.

According to Roy Morgan, unemployment in August was 11%, with another 8% of the workforce underemployed, whereas the ABS puts it at 5.3%. The ABS deems that if somebody has worked for only one hour a week then they are employed. Which isn’t helpful.

Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia, not the perception of unemployment. But the ABS figures are more politically acceptable. It is as simple as that. All governments manipulate their statistics for the public.

Which may make sense in the short term, but really doesn’t help if we are seriously going to address the problem of jobs.

Currently, digital disruption and its impacts on jobs is viewed a bit like climate change. The impacts are off somewhere in the future. Which is correct. But that future is closer than you might think.

But jobs do not exist in a vacuum.

Employers offer jobs. And employers make people redundant. And big businesses answer to shareholders wanting profit. And small businesses have to pay wages.

And the current myth that employers won’t replace people with technology, but will retain workers and just reallocate tasks is just a wish and a dream. The reality is that technology comes in the door and people go out.

Even in organisations that have more than enough money to redeploy people if they choose to, such as banks – they don’t. The ANZ has cut 5,250 employees. The National Australia Bank has retrenched 6,000 employees.

The big four banks in Australia are expected to shed up to 40,000 jobs in all over five years. Some new jobs in technology and analytics will be created, but overall it’s net job loss. Telstra is cutting 8,000 jobs. Optus is cutting 400. And so on.

So even in companies with big profits, people are not being redeployed they are being unemployed.

This trend will continue.

In the next three to five years we will see the first 1.5 million Australian jobs under threat, in financial services, retail, wholesale, rental and real estate, administration and support. As well as some categories in professional services and health.

And in the next ten to fifteen years, another 4.5 million jobs will be threatened as AI really takes hold. Which for our children and grandchildren in Australian schools is going to be a challenge.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things,

Blockchain, Cloud services, BIM, GPS, 5G, Cryptocurrency, Cybersecurity, Drones,

Digital Identity, IP protection, Mobility, Nanotechnology, Robots, Solar and

Battery Storage, Virtual Reality, Amazon, airbnb, Freelancer, Uber etc, not

forgetting climate change and “fake news” all present threats to jobs in Australia

and across the world, as well as opportunity.

So we need to start understanding, managing and pushing back against this threat, before it becomes a promise.

There is a lot we can do, but we have to start with an honest appraisal of the marketplace and workplace environment. Youth unemployment is a problem. Over 40 years old unemployment is a problem. Job transition is a problem.

We have an abundance of productive industries in Australia. An abundance of resources. We have the capacity to reframe what we do and where we focus our efforts. We have a world-class innovation engine in CSIRO/Data61 and our universities.

We can add value to products and services through our research, design, branding and marketing. But we have to start by having a “big picture” vision, joining the pieces of the puzzle. Bringing it all together.

The opportunity is there in front of us. “We are a big country, with a small population and we are ratshit at collaboration.” Only by collaborating and showcasing what we (Australia) can offer to the world will we be successful.

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Vision trumps leadership every time. No vision = No leadership. So who is steering the “ship of state”?

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You can’t have leadership without vision. Leadership implies direction…that you know where you are going, and that you are going somewhere definite. And that is increasingly difficult for anybody to claim in today’s disrupted world. For any country.

How do you successfully lead a government, a team or an organisation through an environment of constant change, with challenges coming from everywhere?

And who are our leaders in this new environment? Where are our leaders? Do they even exist?

Politicians. CEOs. Pontiffs. Mayors. Chancellors. Generals?

In a disruptive environment, politicians aren’t actually leaders. They become managers. Managers of today’s problem. The immediate. Getting elected. The television interview. Remaining elected. The sound bite. Shooting from the hip. Reactive.

Not visionaries at all. Just managers. Itch scratchers.

Most CEOs aren’t leaders either. They are managers also. Managers of the next quarter bottom line. The board meeting. Institutional conformity. Groupthink. Risk aversion. Managers of yesterday. Not visionaries either.

You can’t have real leadership without vision and given all the disruption of the operational environment today, nobody has a clue where they are going. 

It’s blundership not leadership. 

Best guest. Lick a finger and hold it in the wind. Or read a horoscope. 

In fact when you get right down to it, real leadership is as rare as unicorn s$%t, regardless of all the leadership courses that abound across the world.

Because they all miss the key issue - “knowing where you are going”.

Which means knowing where you are, for a start. 

Then having an objective and a plan for how to get there, taking into account all the threats, challenges and opportunities the world currently offers. 

Which need vision.

An experienced captain doesn’t have a problem with steering a ship across the ocean, even in the worst weather, so how come our leaders, our “captains” are so inept at steering the nation? Any nation. Any company. Any organisation.

Here we all are in the midst of the most confusing and disruptive time we have ever seen and our leaders (the traditional ones) aren’t leading, because they don’t have a clue where we should be going. There is no strategy for Australia.

Where are we going? What are we doing?

And it’s not just a disrupted world in which we live, it’s also a corrupted world. 85% of respondents in a recent Australian survey by Griffith University believe some, most or all federal members of parliament are corrupt. Trust has flown out the window. And leadership requires trust.

“I know where I am going.” “Ok, we’ll follow you.” Not any more.

Having “leadership qualities” is all well and good, but that begs a very big question. “Leadership qualities” for what? 

Let’s just look at a list of some of the issues and challenges that we all face as a nation and then consider what the plan is to lead us through all those challenges. 

Successfully.

  1. AI. Robots. Blockchain. Job destruction. Global warming. Biotechnology. Fake news. Manipulation of unemployment and underemployment statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. Not to mention people living on the street and under bridges in Australia, one of the richest countries in the world.

Do you think our children will ever forgive us for creating this mess? 

Or for forcing them into an education system for a world that no longer exists. 

And also then leaving them to clear up the mess that we created. With the wrong set of educational tools.

There are some real challenges ahead.

And who will put their hand up to lead us through that lot?

First, there has to be a vision of how that would even be possible. 

Then that vision has to be crystalised into a clear picture, a story and a direction. 

For all these issues and challenges (and others) are connected in some way. So a permanent solution has to incorporate a plan for all of them. That joins up.

A flexible plan. Because things will change and evolve on the way.

Seems unlikely or even impossible. But it is not impossible. We got ourselves into this mess and we can get ourselves out of it.

But we have to start with a vision. And a decision. Not just blunder on from day to day, hoping that in some magical way it will all fix itself. 

It won’t. 

She’ll be right. She won’t.

We need somebody on the bridge of the “ship of state” who is looking out the window and steering the ship. 

Or a lot of somebodies. Because in the absence of a leader, the vision can be defined by all of us. Collectively and collaboratively. 

But somebody or a group of somebodies have to be looking out the window. To provide a clear vision of what lies ahead. And suggest options.

Once the big picture is clear – the vision for all the issues above - then we can deal with the big picture issues, one jigsaw piece at a time. Knowing that all the pieces connect and are part of a bigger picture solution.

Turning the impossible into the possible. Shrinking the big picture challenge down into a series of achievable tasks. 

Delivered through collaboration and sharing.  

And then all the folk with “leadership qualities” can get on with what they do best. Leading. Once they know where to go and what to do.

Collectively and collaboratively we can do this. We have even started. 

Wales for example, has an Office of the Future Generations. 

That is Leadership.

Positive, big picture thinking – made real. Well done, Wales.

What about every country having an Office of the Future Generations?

195 countries, each with an office focused on the future generations. With each having to consider the same problems and challenges that Australia faces. We could share examples, case studies and stories of what works. Shared value.

Speed up the process.

The main problem we face today is that our “leaders” across all societal dimensions, think too small. 

It’s not really their fault. They are extremely busy. They get sidetracked. Overwhelmed by multiple pressures. They become preoccupied. “Attention deficit disorder”. Not enough time. They get swamped by the day-to-day, end of the month or the next quarter, and never get to the year-to-year or decade-to-decade vision.

“Working in the business not on it”. No matter how many consultants deliver the presentation of “work on your business, not just in it”, the message never seems to really get through. 

There is never enough time. And guess what? There never will be. If you are waiting for the right opportunity when things finally ease off a bit, you will be waiting into your grave. 

You - Mr or Mrs CEO, Politician, Pontiff, Mayor, Chancellor, General - have to make the time. 

And lock it in. And don’t allow that time to be messed with in any way.

There is lip service paid to vision through the creation of multiple 2020, 2030 and 2050 reports and plans, but these are all vapid, tick box exercises, not realistic plans for addressing the future. 

And they inevitably end up in the circular filing cabinet. Never actioned. A default for thinking and acting.

Addressing the “future today” requires action. Real projects. Starting today. Trials. Experiments. Not talking about starting.

But day-to-day issues are intrusive and voracious, and bully, hoodwink and channel leadership into management, denial, groupthink, willful blindness, risk aversion and inaction.

Leaders are transformed into followers, dealing with whatever is the most immediate issue. Leadership becomes followship.

Vision - is blocked. Then suddenly the next election (or whatever) rolls around and nothing much has been achieved. Again.

Ideology is just another form of voluntary blindness. Prejudgment. Prejudice.

Ideology prevents individuals from looking clearly at new, disruptive situations and making the best choices. Ideology shapes and manipulates choices.

The status quo, the current status is not what it was. It requires a new set of responses. Tinned or cookie cutter responses to change no longer work, if they ever did. 

“It’s socialism = therefore I can’t consider this”, or “It’s capitalism = therefore it’s evil”, or “It’s from the left”, or “It’s from the right”. Ideology is history. Ideology is voluntary blindness.

The world is flat. The earth is the centre of the universe. We have been here before, remember?

Wake up guys. The world has changed. And is changing. The digital revolution powers on regardless. The pollution and impacts of the industrial revolution also power on regardless.

But voluntary blindness hasn’t changed. It’s as though nearly half the world is wearing coloured glasses that only deliver one point of view while the other half wear another colour. Voluntary blindness is a form of laziness. A refusal to think afresh. To consider or reconsider. Prepackaged prejudice.

Luckily, beyond the darkness, many individuals and groups of individuals are looking at this new disruptive world with clear eyes and suggesting that it might be time for a fresh look at our condition. We got ourselves into this condition and we have to get ourselves out.

The Hans Christian Andersen, “Emperor’s new clothes” story published in 1837 is real and relevant today in 2018. Worth reading again. We have to look past ideology and prejudice, and pick good ideas from wherever they exist and then apply them.

Once again, these are the issues we have to address.

  1. AI. Robots. Blockchain. Job destruction. Global warming. Biotechnology. Fake news. Manipulation of unemployment and underemployment statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. Not to mention people living on the street and under bridges in Australia, one of the richest countries in the world.

What we are witnessing in our parliament this week is selfishness taken to a new extreme. Are our politicians discussing solutions for any of the issues above? 

No. They are too worried and concerned about their personal jobs. Because that is exactly what it means when politicians that should be leading the country become preoccupied with the next election. Because the next election is only about their jobs.

Selfishness trumps vision.

Any motivation to look after the interests of the country evaporates into thin air. And once again, there is nobody on the bridge of state steering the country anywhere. They are all downstairs discussing themselves.

In business, the “end of quarter” results are always looming and the board meeting always needs preparation. And multiple pressures always demand response.

So “here we go again”.

We need good ideas not ideology. We have to pick and choose the best examples of what works and implement them. From wherever they can be found. No ideology. Just pick the good ideas. There are plenty of them around.

For, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” 

We need to get on with it. Launch and learn. Because, then we are at least taking steps. Not sitting around discussing the steps we might take.

We have some big challenges. And we can’t keep kicking them down the road to the next generation. Which is what we doing now. That is unfair. Ask the Millennials.

And once again, here is a list of things we need to get on with. There are others.

  1. AI. Robots. Blockchain. Job destruction. Global warming. Biotechnology. Fake news. Manipulation of unemployment and underemployment statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Wars. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. Not to mention people living on the street and under bridges in Australia, one of the richest countries in the world.

These are all real challenges. Some of them are already being addressed. Roy Morgan has made headway on the “manipulation of employment and unemployment figures”. 

Wales has an Office of the Future Generations. And every day on Linkedin I see example after example of other great ideas and endeavours.

There are plenty of good initiatives under way. All over the world. Now we just need to align them for best effect. The jigsaw pieces need to fit together.

Every positive initiative is an inspiration. Every positive solution can be copied and shared.

Some challenges are a lot bigger than others, but none of them are too difficult to solve. If we collaborate. 

The RED Toolbox is our contribution to collaboration - http://theredtoolbox.org

Become a partner.

It will take a lot of good ideas and then a lot of considered actions and projects to gnaw away at this lot. But gnaw we must.

We have never been more challenged. But equally, we have never had more collaborative tools at our disposal to fix things. Or more good ideas. Or more good folk willing to collaborate to find solutions.

So, let’s get on with it. One piece at a time.

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The most important issue we face as a society.

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We are moving from a world of separation and disconnection into a joined up and collaborative world. Slowly. 

The technologies of communication, connection and collaboration are connecting up individuals, companies, regions and even countries. Slowly.

Interconnection offers an additional power to the “power of one”. It offers the power of “shared value”.

If you are not familiar with shared value, watch Michael Porter, Harvard Business School - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jesEa_-Pgp8

Professor Porter has been promoting the concept of shared value since 2011, and the lights are finally going on. 

What role should business have in society? In a joined up world, business can no longer just do its old thing. It has to do a new thing. It has to accept, contribute to and reinforce its place in support of every healthy and connected region, state, country and society. To help fix things. To find better ways to do things. To differentiate. To do strategy. And to make profit. 

Together we can fix anything, by doing things differently. Because through connectivity, we can magnify and multiply the “power of one”.

We can transform disconnection into interconnection, separation into collaboration, and selfishness into sharing. The digital revolution is joining everything up. We just need to align our minds and our actions with the new opportunity. 

Every day, there is ever more connection, collaboration and integration of devices and networks, and ultimately the human beings that use them. Us.

Which could be a good thing and should be a good thing. If we manage it well.

For we are moving from a world of limitation, separation, isolation and disconnection into one where we potentially can marshal our collective skills to solve just about any issue we want, if we can work collaboratively to do that.

But we are still structured according to the previous revolution – the industrial revolution – with its all its departments, and offices and divisions and siloes.

With constrained, “frog stuck in the well” thinking, short termism, command and control, and many doubts and fears about what collaboration means. 

We live in uncertain times. Work as we used to know it is transforming. Careers are dead. Good jobs are really hard to find. And many jobs on offer are part time, freelance, contract and insecure.

Even academia, government, corporate and professional services are steadily shifting into contractual insecurity.

So how easy is it for our children to navigate this new world of work? When I left school, a million years ago, there were jobs everywhere. Good jobs too. Careers.

Not so today.

And the very concept of work is under threat, from a host of disruptive technologies designed to replace people. The apologists don’t accept that of course, “These technologies will enhance what we do, don’t worry.” 

Yes, they will enhance us right out the door and onto the street. 

And we already have too many people living on the street in Australia, without adding more to their number.

How did we allow this to happen, I wonder? How do we walk down the pavements in town without looking at the people sitting in shop doorways and under bridges? Pass by on the other side.

I have been talking to lots of CEOs and senior manager about the EDToolbox, which is our response to the future of work and jobs for students, parents, teachers and schools. 

And interestingly, I get two responses in every discussion. 

A personal response, “Yes, I am worried about this, I have two teenage children”. 

And a professional response “Yes, we are concerned about this issue as a business. We wonder how it is going to affect us and what we can do about it”.  

Both personal and professional are connected of course. And reflect recognition of the issue.

In a joined up world, the traditional Porter’s model of relationships gets put on steroids. 

Our familiar, small solar system of relationships – us, customer, supplier, complementary business and competitor gets connected to other solar systems, galaxies and universes of relationships, just because of connectivity.

Yet we don’t seem to have the operational framework or experience to leverage this new paradigm, for us to be able to pick up and run with the new networked, collaborative opportunity.

Daily, we are confronted by the downside of extended network relationships…the ones that we don’t want. 

Every time we get yet another scam call from India explaining how the Tax Office/Telstra/Microsoft/Internet Service Provider/Bank or other organisation wants our private information or to take control of our computer, the message is clear.

Cyber attacks, Phishing. Living in the new world is challenging. 

  1. AI. Robots. Blockchain. Global warming. Fake news. Manipulated job statistics. Increasing household debt. A school curriculum focused on the 20thcentury. Diminishing access to water. Pollution. Waste. Inequality. Migration. Terrorism. Ageism. Racism. And so on.

We face these issues, threats and challenges every day. They challenge what we are and what we do. 

And most of us define ourselves in this way.

“Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?

So who are you if you don’t do anything? If you “can’t” do anything?

If you are “too old” to do anything? Or too “inexperienced” to do anything? 

It can get scary when you don’t fit in. 

Education used to be about preparing people for a role in life…a job. People had an aim, a target in life…”I want to do this when I grow up” or “I want to be this”.

In a world where jobs are disappearing (50% under threat), and contractual conditions are changing at the same time, those life targets are dissolving and evolving before our eyes. 

Economists don't seem to understand that robots REPLACE, that software REPLACES, that automation REPLACES not displaces. 

“1”s and “0”s invisibly deliver change across wires and wireless, operating like hungry termites chewing timber in a traditional Australian weatherboard house. 

Nothing seems to be happening, until the house falls down.

Wages growth?

Almost 20% unemployment and underemployment! 

Household debt! 

Productivity?

The continual impacts of robotisation, software and automation increase productivity, but push down wages, push up underemployment and unemployment and increase household debt.

In Australia, 4.5 million jobs are threatened over the next ten years. 

Threatened,…but job elimination will take time. This is a slow game of musical chairs. So we have time. We have time to push back. Time to manage the threat.

For there will be fewer jobs. And there will be less job security. And more invisible people. People with no obvious role in society, who don’t do anything. 

Not because they don’t want to. But, because the opportunities to perform a meaningful role have evaporated and disappeared.

Those people may end up on the street. Some will. They may end up couch surfing. Staying with friends and parents. End up in hospital. Or in prison. And that is not what we want.

Unemployment is a problem that undermines society, identity, self-respect, confidence and meaning. Unemployment acts like an illness, sapping strength and motivation.

That is why work is important. And why lack of work is a problem. And it really doesn’t matter if a politician claims that unemployment is 5%, or 10%. It is what the net result of unemployment, underemployment, people given up trying and “can’t give a #@$&; any more” adds up to. 

The picture of people living on the street, standing in queues for soup in the night, or relying on charities for food and clothing paints a stark picture.

It is a public statement of societal failure. The inability of politicians to perform.

The future of work and jobs is a big issue.

And we are not ready for it.

We cannot combat the challenges facing us if we continue to act alone. As individuals. Of course, individuals have power, but power is magnified through collaboration and sharing.

Teams can do what no individual can manage alone. We witness this in sport every weekend. We witness this in orchestras, dance groups and bands. In the best businesses and organisations.

The flair and artistry of individuals is enhanced and magnified by the support of others.

We face some big challenges. And those challenges are for all of us. 

We can no longer ask, “What is government doing to fix (insert your problem here)?” We have to consider what we can do. As an individual, as a business, or as an organisation of any kind.

We have to collaborate and view the challenges holistically. Because, the challenges are interconnected, and the tools we have at our disposal are interconnected as well.

We can all do something. We can all offer something. We can all help.

We now just have to align our thinking accordingly. The Rubik’s cube, can be manipulated into 43,252,003,274,489, 856,000 combinations.

We have to begin to recognise the power of shared value. 1 + 1 doesn’t just have to make 2. It can make 11.

The more we collaborate across multiple dimensions the more we can maximise the value of sharing. Sharing value in our regions. Between regions. In our businesses. 

In our sector. In our cluster, Between our sectors. Between large, medium and small businesses. Between universities, businesses and TAFES.

Organised logically, knowledge and opportunity can be channelled usefully.

Working together we can orchestrate serendipity. “Oh, you’re doing that and we are doing this, together we could do something new, something even better.”

The RED Toolbox - https://theredtoolbox.org was created to support a very simple strategy - the need to spread our economic base wider than just “dirt, meat, wheat and education”. 

We have many more resources and capabilities than that.

Let us focus on all of Australia’s productive industries – agriculture, creative industry, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism. 

The showcase in the RED Toolbox presents 5,400 of our best of breed manufacturers, producers and services to the world. More to add as well.

These are the industries in Australia that offer opportunities to add value (through design, branding, applied research and marketing). 

So let us connect these industries and businesses with university research and with design and advertising agencies in a more structured and deliberate way.

For these are the industries that offer us opportunities to engage with markets overseas – export. And opportunities to share knowledge and understanding.

We are not the only country facing drought, problems with pollution, energy and environment. We have developed skills and solutions that are of interest to many.

We should connect to every major overseas market and to all the minor ones too, allowing Australian businesses to talk directly with organisations in other countries without having to jump on a plane. That can come later.

The RED Toolbox has a “six dimensional framework – regions, sectors, issues, export, projects and events, with one focus – Australia’s productive industries.

It is a response to a growing recognition of “shared value”. Not just here, but all over the world. 

Wales for example, now has an Office of the Future Generations. Positive, big picture thinking – made real. Well done, Wales.

What about every country having an Office of the Future Generations?

Imagine 195 countries, each with an office focused on the future generations. With us all considering the same problems and challenges that Australia faces. 

Just think where that might lead.

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9 issues still to address in 2018. So let’s do something.

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Time to revisit a blog I posted in early 2018. What has changed?

Not much. We still face the same issues.

They are all connected, but usually people talk about these issues separately as though they have nothing to do with each other. Which is a problem of course. Because they are all connected in some way.

We still have a jobs issue. 

There are not enough jobs, and not enough well paying jobs. The “new” well paying jobs are only available to people with rare skills. 

But there are an ever-increasing number of low wage, contract, part time and “slave class” jobs. And there is deliberate fudging of the employment and underemployment figures for political comfort. 

Real unemployment and underemployment in Australia is still near to 20% of the workforce, which is a big issue. Thank goodness that Roy Morgan is doing a good job at keeping the record straight. Unemployment and underemployment is 19.3% or 2.59 million people looking for work or for more work.

We still have an education issue.

We are educating for the disappearing world. And parents are a major contributor to this problem. 

They haven’t yet awoken to the “changing nature of work” due to digital disruption with its destructive impact on 47% of existing jobs. 

Parents continue to support school curricula based on their own personal school experience. 

But when you are paying large fees for education, you are entitled to wonder what the school fees are actually preparing little “William and Emma” for.

Because current teaching is not preparing Australian students for the challenges of the 21stcentury. 

It is barely preparing them for the challenges of 1958, let alone the new challenges of 2018 and beyond.

Teaching coding at school is not the answer. Promoting STEM is not the answer either. Both ideas presuppose no real change in what “work is and what a job is” when traditional jobs and workplaces are both seriously challenged by digital disruption. 

We must first clarify which workplaces will survive and what a job will become, then we may be able to create a curriculum that delivers for the new world.

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The good and bad sides of the digital revolution.

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The digital revolution continues to challenge the societies we live in. For better or worse. Connecting us to information and each other, fostering community and collaboration, but at the same time destroying jobs, and capturing personal data for manipulation, propaganda and control.

You want to win an election? Shift attention like a matador? Feed the gullible? Well, now you can.

This is where we now live. In a polarised world. Both good and bad. Brokered by Email, SMS. Google. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter and the rest.

The digital revolution is reshaping the world at a scale never seen before and everyone is involved. Spooks. Politicians. Criminals. Gangsters. Corporates. Businesses. Individuals and organisations of all kinds.

Digital disruption is remorseless and destructive, and is predicted to eliminate 50% of jobs during the next twenty years.

Over twenty technologies and vendors of various kinds ranging through 5G, Blockchain, IoT, AI, Robots, Drones, VR, AR, BIM, GPS, satellites, Digital ID, 3D printing, nanotech, cloud services, Amazon, Google, Uber, Freelancer, Airbnb and so on are causing this affect, all knocking on the front door at the same time.

Some are knocking louder than others, some are knocking together and some want to come in right now.

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“Jobs lost, jobs gained? Don’t’ worry, it’s ok”. Well, it’s not ok.

On reading the McKinsey "Jobs lost, jobs gained" report again, it is easy to see how traditional economists just don't understand what is happening re the jobs impacts of digital disruption. 

Throughout the report, the McKinsey team continually reach back into history for reasons why the current changes will be just like before.

Which is "Maginot line" thinking. 

Because, new technology nearly always changes the apparent learnings from history. 

Before the second world war, Guderian and a few others understood that the tank and the "jerry can" (the ability to refuel reliably on the run) would change everything supposedly learned from the fixed line, trench warfare, catastrophe of the first world war. 

His thinking was not accepted by his superiors, so he went ahead and proved them wrong anyway. And the Maginot line – the result of all the French General staff learnings from the first world war proved irrelevant. Wrong place. The battle was fought elsewhere.

It was the same with the machine gun before the first world war. Cavalry and infantry proved useless against knee height scythes of bullets. The new automated technology created radical change in the operational environment = the battlefield, and everything supposedly learned from history proved irrelevant. New conditions.

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9 issues we should address in 2018. But don't just stand there...do something.

We face a few issues at the moment.

They are all connected, but usually people talk about these issues separately as though they have nothing to do with each other. Which is a problem of course. Because they are all connected in some way.

We have a jobs issue.

There are not enough jobs. And not enough well paying jobs. The “new” well paying jobs are only available to people with rare skills. And there are an ever-increasing number of low wage, contract, part time and “slave class” jobs. And there is deliberate fudging of the employment and underemployment figures for political comfort.

Real unemployment and underemployment in Australia is near to 20% of the workforce, which is a big issue. Thank goodness that Roy Morgan is doing a good job at keeping the record straight. Unemployment and underemployment is 19.4% or 2.6 million people looking for work or for more work.

We have an education issue.

We are educating for the disappeared and disappearing world. Parents are a major contributor to this problem. They haven’t yet woken to the “lack of work” and “changing nature of work” environment and continue to support school curricula based on their own personal school experience.

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It’s 2018. Time for startups, scaleups, productive industries and jobs

It seems obvious that we should be focussing our limited national resources and economic energy into supporting and enhancing our productive industries - the industries that can support jobs, pay higher wages, generate more exports, build a sustainable future and so on.

We are a rich country. But we need to manage that wealth of resources better than we do today. We have extractive industries aplenty and a good job too...or we would be much worse off than we are.

Our productive industries - agriculture, creative industries, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism can all be expanded, and value added to collectively create a sustainable platform for the future.

We also have service industries though some of them do a very poor job servicing and supporting our productive industries eg - the banks that should be providing investment to SMEs don't, and are about to spend a heap of money telling us otherwise. Money they should be channelling into supporting productive industries.

And we have a small number of parasitic industries that extract wealth from wallets and purses rather than generate wealth and health for the country. You can work out who they are for yourselves.

In fact, Australians lose more than $11.4 billion a year on the pokies, so if we nationalised the pokies, we could clear our budget deficit in just three years.

Every industry across the planet is being impacted by the digital revolution. Automation, computerisation and robotisation are stripping jobs out of the economy at an ever-increasing pace.

Predictions are that 40% of jobs will disappear from the economy over the next ten years, though there are already signs that it could be a much higher percentage than that.

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Let’s make our problems disappear (not just our jobs)

Jobs are disappearing. Skills demands have changed. Wages have stagnated. Digital disruption is impacting every sector, region and business category. Businesses are disappearing. Industry sectors are under threat. The changes are happening fast. Our leaders have lost touch. Tied to election cycles – short term - when the solutions we need are long term. No direction. We are educating for a world that has gone. We are hocked to the eyeballs. Inequality = 1%. And we are focusing on trivia not the elephants in the room.

Lots of problems that are all connected. And we can’t fix one properly without fixing the others at the same time.

First problem is that most people either don’t understand or appreciate the scale and scope of the above. And we don’t have the time to wait for them to catch up.

While we talk and explain, and strategise and plan, we also have to engage in action. We don’t have the luxury of time for consideration. We’ve done that.

It is now time for launch and learn. Not learn and launch.

“Think tanks” are fine. But “do tanks” are finest.

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What is the digital revolution doing to jobs?

For the last few weeks I have been working on a spreadsheet of 503 ANZSIC business categories across all industry sectors looking at which sectors and categories are hardest hit by digital disruption – now and over the next few years.

I was inspired to have a closer look at each individual business category, because of the many posts about future of work and jobs. Which tend to be selective, highlighting either the best or worst outcomes in different industries.

And because of the 50,000 surveys we have conducted on adoption and use of ICT across all business categories, we had some insights that might prove useful in this endeavour. Should anybody want to discuss this in more depth, just contact me.

The impacts of digital disruption are spread widely across all industry sectors not just some sectors. There is threat and opportunity in all industries.

No industry sector is immune, but impacts are not equally shared across all the categories in a business sector.  

So Car retail, Domestic Appliance retail, Recorded Music retail, Book etc are more threatened than Liquor retail, Specialty Food, Swimming Pools and Spas and so on.

The more variability and specialty there is in a business category - the more protection from disruption. The more uniformity, repetition and prepackaging in a business category - the less protection. But no category enjoys full protection.

No industry sector or category is spared. All sectors and categories can be threatened and/or improved in some way.

Threat and opportunity often run side by side – ie high threat, but also high opportunity.

Most of us already understand this dual nature of threat and opportunity, because we have seen the impacts in action over the last twenty years as a range of industry sectors or business categories have met with disruption and change – music, postal, video, real estate, accommodation, TV, newspapers, printing, travel, retail, aged care, insurance, law, taxis, finance, training, education, government, associations, politicians and on it goes.

This disruption isn’t stopping or slowing down. And in many sectors and categories it has barely begun.

Even in sectors and categories where the news is good – where there is mainly digital opportunity not threat – there is a consistent downside.

Loss of jobs.

For example, automation, robotisation and software deliver enormous benefits to agriculture and mining, but at the expense of jobs. The robots, software and automated processes remove the need for lots of people. And the new job options established to support and manage the technologies demand fewer people.

With often different skills and capabilities.

Result. The organisation invests in the technology. The organisation saves on payroll. The organisation then employs fewer people with different skills.

So digital improves productivity, profitability and efficiency, but destroys jobs.

Which is good news and bad news, depending on who you are, what you do and your point of view.

So will it be 47% of jobs destroyed over the next ten years as the 2013 Oxford University report suggests?

The problem is the number of people performing the jobs that are being eliminated. And because it is now 4 years since that report emerged and the technology has proliferated, innovated and improved, the percentage is now likely to be larger.

More innovation. More software. More adoption. More use. More impact. On both jobs and the workers in those jobs.

With more to come.

At the moment we are hiding many of the impacts of digital disruption by the shifting of full time employment into contract, part time, freelance and occasional work, with the REAL employment and underemployment figures hidden for political reasons. In all countries, not just Australia.

We don’t seem prepared to look the digital revolution “gift horse in the mouth”. For it has enormous, but sharp and carnivorous teeth. Not what we expected at all.

And we can’t begin to address the problem unless we accept the problem exists in the first place.

Nearly 20% of our working population is now looking for work or for more work. There are currently not enough jobs. There are not enough well paid jobs.

Contract work, part time, freelance and occasional work produces less income. Generates less tax. Wage growth is flat. Less income leads to more borrowing and greater household debt. The condition we find ourselves in today.

And the continual elimination of jobs through software, robots and automation is remorseless. It is slow, but remorseless.

Many businesses that could replace workers are not doing so. For now.

Many businesses, households and individuals that banks could bankrupt are still operational. Given leeway and time. For now.

The can is kicked down the road. Hoping the problem will fix itself over time.

It won’t.

This issue needs managing.

Businesses and banks (and central banks) and politicians have woken up to the bigger picture. Push too hard or too fast and the whole house of cards tumbles.

However that doesn’t stop the digital revolution. It merely cushions some of its immediate blows. For now.

And the cost of software, automation and robots will continue to fall and the job-cost equation will become more persuasive.

Persuasive to those, who believe that business is just business. To those who believe that shareholders are the only partners in profit and loss. To those who don’t accept there is a social contract in all business, if there is to be economic sustainability. And a future for our children.

The real issue isn't actually about the future of jobs. It is about the future of organisations that employ people - i.e. organisations that offer jobs.

If these organisations disappear or are forced out of existence through digital disruption and/or digital opportunity, then the associated jobs disappear at the same time. Along with the associated income. The ability to manage debt load. To pay mortgages. To buy products and services. To keep the show on the road.

Both digital threat and digital opportunity reduce the need for workforce.

Digital threat destroys jobs. Uber, Amazon, Alibaba, Google, AirBnB etc all destroy jobs.

Digital opportunity destroys jobs. Robots, software and automation destroy jobs.

Digital threat and opportunity also destroy business categories and even industry sectors. This has happened throughout history but never so fast or across so many sectors at the same time.

It's not about "if" it is only about "when". And we still do have the ability to influence timing. Though that is about all.

What is the ultimate destination of this change? Where is this revolution heading?

It is heading towards a degree of unemployment and underemployment, such as we have never seen in our lifetimes.

Which inevitably leads towards a conversation about Universal Basic Income. UBI.

Dole. Pension. Unemployment Benefits. Newstart. Old start. Allowances. Call them what you will, they are all taxpayer funded payments of some kind.

UBI will have to be funded by taxation. We will have to revisit taxing the job destroyers who mainly benefit from this revolution. The multinational corporations and software companies, the robot makers and the automators will have to pay tax on the income they receive in the country where that income is generated. No revenue shifting.

Multinationals are the primary organisations to profit from this enormous societal change in the short term. But to what end?

Because we need to have a population with enough money to buy things or we will really have a problem. We are already beginning to see more of our population moving into poverty. Pensioners, the disabled and benefit receivers of all kinds. Under financial stress. On the streets. Living in cars. Caravans. Sofas.

They will soon be joined by more of the bankrupted, the debtridden, the beaten and defeated.

We are already experimenting with UBI in this country. Paying people who do not generate wealth from the government purse – at both ends of the spectrum.

We have the low paid on government paid, taxpayer funded subsidies, pensions and grants channeled through Centrelink.

And we have the well paid on government paid, taxpayer funded wages in local, state and federal government.

Both on UBI, but we don’t call it that yet. Non-wealth generators and producers. You could even argue that banks fall into that same category, especially when they neglect to lend to the productive industries and businesses that generate wealth.

The money to pay UBI comes from taxes.

But as tax paying businesses and organisations disappear, and ever more people lose jobs and desperately seek more work, taxable income will fall.

And we can't build enough prisons or expand the police force enough to manage half a population out of work...

Choices.

It is time to understand the full impacts of technological change. Personally.

CEOs and boards need to wake up to digital threat and opportunity and not abdicate that responsibility to CIOs.

The threat to our society is greater than the threat from terrorism. We need to marshal our resources accordingly.

It is time to consider what a job is anyway. What is the purpose? What is the reason for getting up in the morning? Is it just about reward? Identity? Place in society? Self respect?

We need to redefine what work is and quickly. In relation to the world we live in today, not the 1950s. We have a conveyor belt of young students entering the workforce every year. They need to know.

It’s not enough for a CEO to decide to adopt a new software package, train staff and let one or two admin people go. Without thinking about what that means to them, as well as the bottom line.

It’s not enough to shift permanent staff onto contracts, outsource work to India, or the Philippines without thinking what that means beyond profit and loss.

And what that means to the suburb, the street, the region and the state, as more and more people join the permanently unemployed on the scrapheap.

How to do we educate children for this new condition? What do we tell them?

Not every young person can start a business.

What does the future offer to children leaving school and moving into permanent “no job, no experience, no hope, no future” land?

We are not managing this transition well.

Incubators and Workhubs are part of the solution. Vocational training and smart trades are part of the solution, but there is a lot more to discuss.

Inequality has become a public issue again. And digital revolution just magnifies inequity and what is already broken.

Given that 8 men now own the same wealth as half the world’s population, or the top 10% of the population now own 85% of the world’s wealth.

“World leaders are concerned”. But concern has not yet translated into action. Big businesses and the super rich dodge taxes, use their power to influence politics and drive down wages. And 1 in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day.

So is it really surprising that individuals and families now travel the planet seeking something better? It all joins up.

In Australia we have small insects called termites. Lots of them. They eat wood. And I have lived in houses where everything looked fine, until one day the door fell off, held in place only by a thin skin of gloss paint.

Which is pretty much the current status of our economy in Australia. A thin skin of gloss paint.

An economy held in place by continuing demand for coal and iron ore (threatened), fake employment and underemployment figures, and conditional blindness to the extent of digital disruption and its impacts (by CEOs and boards).

Looks solid. Isn’t.

Rising inequality is becoming a problem across the world, not just here in Australia. Unemployment and underemployment in Australia is now 17.9% or 2.402 million people in Australia looking for work or for more work.

Inequality in Australia has risen over the past generation. And we have all noticed. When wealth is concentrated among a small group of people it increases demand for luxury goods by that very small group of people.

When incomes are more equal and widespread, people who are less well off buy more things – right across the board. Which expands the overall market and inspires companies to create things to sell.

When people carry large household debt burdens they can’t afford to buy more than the essentials and market demand shrinks. It also prevents poor people from reaching their potential in education and invention.

Then everybody becomes poorer.

Household debt. Through the roof.

Unaffordable housing.

More people on the streets and in the soup kitchens.

Moribund wage growth (for most of us).

Time to wake up.

We need to discuss what a job is and how it is rewarded. How to provide useful activity in society for people with skills and rewards matched to “brain”, “eye” and “hand”. How do we value manufacture? How do we reward effort?

UBI is a conversation we have to have.

In banks where competitive risk is diminished by “too big to fail” government bail out reassurances, should the CEO be paid more than 10 times the lowest paid worker?

What returns and rewards are appropriate in public companies? Private companies are private, and on the whole risk and reward are far better matched.

But senior management in government, quangos, banks and utilities can rarely justify the salaries that are paid today. These salaries and bonuses are a contrivance of boards populated with lawyers, directors and accountants, a throwback to the last century.

And the majority of the population sits outside looking in and sees it for what it is. A closed circle of colleagues and business associates handing cash to each other – board to CEO, CEO to board – in a perverted game of musical chairs, where the chairs never get removed.

These issues need discussion in public forums. Especially when it is taxes paying the salaries.

We all need to get engaged with the big picture issues.

We all face the same problems. So let’s see what we can do about them.

Two issues.

How do we use digital technology to support productive industries in Australia – agriculture, creative industry, defence, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism – with skills, export, R&D and collaboration?

How do we mitigate the negative impacts of digital disruption and its role in job destruction – applying the brake, discussing UBI, role of work, inequality, vision and collaboration?

We need to work on both issues at the same time. Collectively.

For our part, we have built a number of platforms to help.

To enable collaboration and discussion around common economic themes – productive industries, export, future of work and jobs, knowledge sharing, projects and collaboration.

We need to build up and improve the economic base for jobs, sustainable regions and collaboration in Australia = the RED Toolbox.

See http://theredtoolbox.org

The RED toolbox is a collaboration platform for regions, RDAs, councils and other organisations to share insights, ideas and activities. So if you aren’t already a partner, then become one.

We also need to build relationships and networks with overseas markets, connecting Australian producers and services with major markets overseas and businesses and communities within those markets = the EXPORT Toolbox.

See http://exporttoolbox.org

We have some remarkable businesses in Australia and they deserve exposure and promotion to markets across the planet. And that is what the EXPORT Toolbox is about.

On the one hand the digital revolution brings threat and disruption and there is little we can do about that except perhaps to slow things down while we consider what that means, as Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk suggest.

And on the other hand the digital revolution brings opportunity. Ask any of the software developers, hardware producers and ICT startups and they will explain what that means to them.

But an even bigger opportunity in the digital revolution is in the new territory of collaboration.

The Toolboxes are collaborative platforms and slowly and steadily they are evolving, based on what partners say they want, on what partners are deciding to do, and on what partners suggest might be possible.

“Can we showcase business from our region to our sister city in Korea? Yes.

“Can we establish a “sister cities” group so that our local businesses can converse with “sister cities” businesses in Hyderabad?” Yes.

“Can we establish a food cluster?” Yes.

“Can we discuss the implications of our ageing population and how to manage it with organisations in Taiwan?” Yes.

“Can we document our circular economy project so it can be shared with other councils in Australia?” Yes.

“Can we create a group to discuss the future of work and jobs?” Yes.

Where next? You tell us.

Because it is not the platforms, it is the people that decide.

This is an organic process. Some things grow faster than others. And the process is more akin to gardening than architecture.

So let’s get into the garden and start gardening.

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Sam Leon
John is concerned about Australia - jobs, exports, collaboration. Well done mate
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 13:58
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Not your grandmother’s revolution. The digital revolution is new.

We are in a time of incredible change. Though when I look out the window, the sky is still blue, the sun is still shining and my hands are still cold. Queensland winter.

It doesn’t look any different outside. The Magpies are warbling away. The digital revolution isn’t impacting them at all.  Just me. And my neighbours next door and across the road. And the rest of the people in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and the world.

The digital revolution is just shifting the foundations of the planet for the rest of us. Not at a physical level (though it has something to say there), but at every other societal level you can think of.

Revolutions are revolutionary.  Wikipedia - A fundamental change in organisational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time, when the population rises up against current authorities.

In our case, the revolutionary change in organisational structures is being created by technology connecting up, not by the population rising up.

The digital revolution is happening stealthily, through wires and wireless, through “1”s and “0”s, through networks and connections, not through people marching on the streets, throwing bricks and bombs. Though that could yet happen if we continue to manage this revolution badly.

The digital revolution is happening quickly. In tens of years not hundreds. The changes it is forcing on society are wide reaching and fundamental. And we don’t know how to react, respond or legislate. We have never seen this before.

The revolution is happening at a very deep level.

The real impacts are happening far below all our Twitter accounts, Facebook, Instagram, Fox news, radio, newspapers and television.

The revolution is destroying jobs, it is enabling corruption and it is revealing corruption. It is extending multinational reach and influence. It is providing startups with a platform to take on the world.

It is magnifying and reinforcing whatever is good and whatever is bad in society.

It is asking questions that were never viable before. What is a job? What is money? What is a constituency? What are borders? What is politics? What is an education? What is going on?

This is not your mother’s revolution, or your grandfather’s. This is new.

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Startups, scaleups, productive industries and jobs

It seems obvious that we should be focussing our limited national resources and economic energy into supporting and enhancing our productive industries - the industries that can support jobs, pay higher wages, generate more exports, build a sustainable future and so on.

We are a rich country. But we need to manage that wealth of resources better than we do today.

We have extractive industries aplenty and a good job too...or we would be much worse off than we are.

Our productive industries - agriculture, creative industries, defence, ICT, manufacturing, medical and health, METS, smart trades and tourism can all be expanded, and value added to collectively create a sustainable platform for the future.

We have service industries though some of them do a very poor job servicing and supporting our productive industries eg - the banks that should be providing investment to SMEs don't, and are about to spend a heap of money telling us otherwise. Money they should be channelling into supporting productive industries.

And we have a small number of parasitic industries that extract wealth from wallets and purses rather than generate wealth and health for the country. You can work out who they are for yourselves.

Collectively these industry sectors employ everybody.

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Frog in the well – a circular view of the digital revolution…

The digital revolution is probably one of the only major revolutions most of us have ever seen.

We have never been more connected.

The industrial revolution is long gone, though its signature factories, railways and chimneys are still with us today. It had a profound effect on the way our societies are organised, and the nature of jobs that individuals perform.

We have spend the last century refining our systems, training, education and management…just in time for that to be undermined and disrupted by a new digital revolution with characteristics that take us into the future and back to the past at the same time.

On the one hand, back to the closeness of the village, but this time a virtual closeness in a new “global village” with no boundaries, or commonly agreed rules and regulations.

And on the other hand, forwards into a multiverse of technology connectivity that externalises our senses and nervous system and connects us to others, and to information, ideas and automation never dreamed of in Wilmington, Kent where I grew up. 

Factories, chimneys, machines, smoke, steam and furnaces are hard to miss and we are still living with their industrial impacts on our environment. Digital is a different matter. 

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Joined up thinking…joined up action.

The opportunity presented by the tools of the digital revolution grows every day.

Because, the currents of change and disruption - more connection, more collaboration and more integration - create an ever-expanding number of people able to contribute, engage and participate.

We have never had this before. Ever. This is brand new.

And as people become familiar with the tools, the focus shifts from “How do I use this” to “What can I use it for?”

People become ready, willing and able.

And that is exciting, because any limitations for action are then only in the imagination. Or lack of it.

Every participant in this interconnected world has a part to play.

What starts as a very personal journey “me, my family, my friends, my business” expands and extends to “my business networks, my region” and “our common interests”, as comfort and awareness levels rise.

And then “my” becomes “our”.

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Disappearing jobs create the RED Toolbox

You “take a job” or “you make a job”. You are employed by somebody or you are self employed.

Opportunities to “take a job” are reducing day by day as the number of full time jobs diminishes. Every day jobs are disappearing and transforming into part time, contract and freelance.

With fewer jobs available, employers become more selective. Competition increases. And the disadvantaged miss out.

For older people, new job options start to evaporate once somebody reaches their fifties. Sometimes sooner, depending on which sector you work in. And ageism is rife.

For young people the demands for experience, creativity, flexibility, commitment, problem solving skills and digital literacy grow as employers recognise the wider choice on offer.

Almost a third of Australian young people are now unemployed or underemployed, the highest level for 40 years. 

Our future. Unemployed.

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Innovative businesses and regions

I would like to use this initial blog post to introduce myself, summarise my background and give out you a brief overview of my focus on developing innovative businesses and regions. My name is Colin Graham and I am the founder of Causeway Innovation based on Australia’s Sunshine Coast .

My background

After completing a marketing degree at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, my business career started in product management for ICI Dulux near London, progressing through a few roles to become International Product Manager.

Just before joining Dulux, a friend and I made a pact that we would go and work for big companies for 3 years, get some experience before leaving to set up our own business. My friend was recruited to work in finance with Citibank and I took up the marketing role with Dulux.

Our plan worked. We put our heads down and worked hard. We made the most of the experience and did good work for our employers. We also convened our own ‘Escape Committee’ meetings – to work up our business plans.

A few months shy of the three-year mark, we left our jobs and set off on our own startup adventure. I still remember the last day at my big company. Many of my colleagues asked me how I felt – ‘Liberated!’ was my answer. One suggested it was a big risk to leave a secure job and a promising career, I said that I felt it was a bigger risk to stay.

So having left life as a big company employee behind, I became the co-founder and CEO of Yellowbrick Training with clients such as Deloitte, IBM and Unilever in the UK and N. America. We offered recruitment and training services and ran research projects with nearly 40 major businesses across the world on tapping into graduate talent and published reports which sold well and gained outstanding media coverage in the Financial Times, BBC and Wall Street Journal. I found out that a small team of entrepreneurial, hard working and passionate people could achieve a lot in a short time.

Later I joined the Career Innovation Group in Oxford working with around 20 global businesses, running research projects and forums in Silicon Valley to help them to understand a new generation of knowledge workers. This work highlighted that the biggest competition for talent these businesses faced was not from other big companies but from startups and the talented people themselves who would leave to set up their own businesses. Many of our clients in Yellowbrick and the Ci Group were tech companies and this gave me exposure to new business trends.

After that I set up a Student Business Incubator for the Robert Gordon University in Scotland – perhaps 10 to 15 years ahead of similar initiatives in Australia - and ran the MBA New Venture Creation Class.

In 2002, I migrated to Australia to be the founding CEO of the Innovation Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast - which has supported over 180 startups to date and made $1bn economic impact over a decade - and in 2012 left to establish Causeway Innovation. Over the last five years, my focus has been on how to develop innovative businesses, hubs and regions – particularly places outside the big capital cities.

Developing innovative businesses and regions

It seems that almost every week another city or region proudly announces that it is going to be the next Silicon Valley. Recent announcements include Utah, Ukraine, Vietnam, Western Sydney and even Cuba.  The reality is that none of these – or a hundred other wannabe places - is likely to be the next Silicon Valley.

Attempting to directly copy Silicon Valley does not work.  It's difficult to replicate something that has developed over many decades through a unique combination of history, culture, geography, people, businesses, investors, government and education institutions, technologies and networks.

So rather than trying to create the next Silicon Valley, I believe regions must consider how innovation and entrepreneurship are relevant for their community. This means identifying and building on strengths, assets and opportunities.

To date, there has been an emphasis on the role of startups – particularly technology startups – in creating new jobs and this is beginning to be partly balanced with a recognition of the vital role played by growth oriented SMEs.

Innovation is broader than launching new products. The OECD and ABS define innovation as ‘creating new or improved product or services, improving operational processes, and introducing new marketing methods or other workplace practices including collaboration.’

My point of view, backed up by research evidence, is that innovation happens at all stages of the business lifecycle and is not just confined to high tech startups. It happens – and is needed – by businesses at all stages and across all sectors of the economy.

In most regions, the central contributors to innovation are startups and SMEs and they need to be central players in a highly visible regional innovation ecosystem.

Despite some challenges in comparison to larger cities and more urban areas, motivated entrepreneurs across many regions are still able to find ways to run successful businesses particularly when there are able to tap into technology to connect with customers, suppliers, team members and partners across the world.

Whilst advances in technology open up new opportunities to do ‘business from anywhere’ the evidence shows that high technology businesses and investment are increasingly concentrating in major cities with concentrations of innovators, service firms, university talent flows and investors. Regions need to work hard to increase the visibility and connectivity between key elements of the ecosystem as well as leveraging the innovation assets available in neighboring communities and major cities.

Startup density is an important factor in growing successful startup ecosystems.[1] Regions must work to ‘create their own density’ by bringing people together via business networking events and making the most of Innovation Hubs.

Business focus

Today, I work with start-ups and established businesses and assist economic development agencies, universities, private developers and others to develop regional innovation projects.  This includes:

  • Running programs to develop startup ecosystems that include building a network via a social media platform, and running business education, networking and mentoring programs.

  • Innovation Master Class – a 2 month business development program aimed at ambitious owner mangers of growth oriented SMEs

  • Running workshops on topics including Build a Better Startup and Pitching for Investment and the Meet the Entrepreneur series

  • Developing business cases and advising on new innovation projects e.g. coworking spaces, innovation hubs and precincts


[1] StartupAus Crossroads Report 2016

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A big picture journey of regional and remote Australia.

My name is Stephen Alexander and I first was seduced into the wonders of the digital world after seeing colour animation on an Amiga games console. I started by seeking funding to deliver real time advertising in supermarkets across the UK. That was my first mistake. The second was setting up UK’s first DOS based multimedia business, six months prior to the first 16 colour PC being actually made.

Nevertheless, we got going in August 1988 and undertook a wide range of ground-breaking projects and became the darling of the technology manufacturers and vendors who fed us well. By then I had become intrigued by the notion of joining up everything via a thing called the Internet and finally convinced my sceptical mate John May that the synergies between computer chips, satellites and fibre optics would change the world forever. After interviewing Al Gore, John finally got the national Telegraph to print a special 14 page supplement in Sept 1994 warning of the impending digital tsunami.

That found me sitting in front of Bill Gates, having been flown first class and in a helicopter to boot, listening to him explaining why his proposed global Internet would work along with what I suspected was to be his own global tax collection model for internet trade. (He knew how to corner a market.) A range of similar meetings and interviews with the good and the great of the day enabled me to start to grasp some of the dynamics of power that would at some point drive the new digital economies that would change our lives forever.

I also realised that whilst the industrial revolution gave us the haves and have nots, this digital revolution would impose the can and cannot’s, and as a consequence create a great deal of inequity. I managed to interview most of the technology offenders and interestingly no one would accept the social or economic implications upon people of their collective activities despite my attempts to corner them. Only Al Gore and rock star Peter Gabriel, who was funding internet servers for people in the Amazon, were up for this discussion which was going to air live on UK TV until the producer pulled the plug.

That was when I started to explore the notion of community, trust and relationships. In particular, the capacity to aggregate the collective social, economic and political power of communities that shared a common interest that they regarded as something almost sacred.

I started to grasp that if sufficient motivation existed in a given community (crowd) to empower or protect this sacred thing then they could aggregate their collective economic, social and even political power (demand), providing they could create the preconditions required to fully automate digital trading exchanges which first require trust followed by a governance structure that straddled the digital and real world.

Having been involved in the development of the first online financial transactions clearing services, where a mainstream Bank (Barclays) underwrote the risk of each transaction, I then got involved with AI expert, Marty Tenenbaum, who had started the collaboration group CommerceNet in Silicon Valley. They had partnered with the financial transaction consortia group comprising the major banks and US Government Treasury to develop an XML based electronic cheque. I ran a proof of concept in Australia to prove the cost benefit and the non-repudiation status of the model.

This put me on a very steep learning curve about what type of governance it really takes to create open environments where a state of non-repudiation exists. This legalist benchmark has always been used by the financial sector and trading exchanges for both physical and online transaction environments to manage risk. As we have seen today, without this risk mitigation tool the tendency is for technologists to aggregate the risk and liabilities along with the data to an unsuspecting owner/operator of any digital exchange or cloud environment.

My conclusion then, was that at some point in the future it would become possible to embed into internet protocols a range of common law legal instruments that would enable any person or group to transact with any other group in real time. This would, for the first time in human history, enable the demand for a service or product that had become commoditised to become aggregated.

Finally, some of the missing digital legalist instruments, like block chain, are now falling into place to enable smart contracts with embedded certificates of validation that do not have to rely upon a centralised system that can slow things up as I experienced with the e-check project.

Which brings me to my own experience and passion of using digital disruption in regional Australia to contribute towards regional ability to survive and even prosper in a global knowledge based economy. Back in 1996, Dean Brown, the then premier of SA enticed our family to move to Australia to help him realise his vision of making Adelaide a (smart) city of the future. The telcos and local government put paid to his plan to bring high speed internet and e-commerce to Adelaide but as his e-commerce advisor I fully embraced his vision and embarked on a most interesting journey.

The most interesting aspect of that work was developing the concept of a digital trading exchange that would have been hosted in Darwin where a free port tax exempt status had been established for a goods trading hub. This would have provided the opportunity for value adding digital services and attract logistics organisations to Darwin.

This experience demonstrated that even having a visionary leader, adoption could not be guaranteed and that a strong grassroots level of collaboration was required.

Through Dean, I encountered Rory McEwen, the then President of the Greater Green Triangle Regional Local Government Association spaning both sides of SA and Victorian border. He believed that these clusters would one day act like digital principalities with their own micro digital economies and even regional currencies or bartering chips. This is a link to an article I wrote on the observations. 

The identified common principle was the need to trade with other regions around the world independent of national trading agreements whilst strengthening regional identity, culture and values. Some years later Senator Alston set up a programme that had me visit over 22 regional townships and remote communities across Australia with a small team of advisors to assist them to form plans and strategies for e-commerce to underpin local economies and build community capacity.

That's when I discovered that the outstanding common interest across regional Australia that could bring everyone together to tackle large initiatives was its paternalist attitude toward and caring of its youth. A most powerful culture of nurturing the capacity to survive in regional Australia and a passionate drive to “see them right” underscored every conversation and was the defining benchmark of outcome in almost every scenario we explored.

Interestingly, this included providing regional youth with the skills to adapt to the changing global trading conditions and tempering them with the tenacity to deal with the manmade and natural shocks that for regional and outback Australians is a way of life.

All this was later confirmed when one of the leading lights in the digital regional transformation arena in Queensland asked me to help him evolve the community broadband infrastructure to include financial transactions. We developed a model where the region could acquire "white branded" day to day banking services at a discounted wholesale price, sell them at a discounted price and give a generous percentage of each service, transaction or commission to a fund to develop the skills required for youth to stay (or come back) to the region.

The CEO of one of the big four banks was willing to cut a deal but wanted to cut the youth bit out and give that as a commission to freelance brokers. I am aware of a range of similar ideas being explored, now that the banks are exploring block-chain currencies and barter.

Then a remarkable man, Ian Fletcher, who ran the office for Premier Richard Court, invited me to run a four day workshop. This involved the head of the National Party at the time, the under treasurer and other leaders whose task it was to provide a 20 yr vision for WA having factored in all the mega trends, financial drivers and sentiment. Ian saved the day and a few people’s teeth as the debates hotted up and I provided a heady mix of digital megatrends, implications and some reasoning.

The predicted tipping point centred around the time when State Governments will run out of sufficient cash to service all expectations of utilities and public services. Interestingly we could see even back then that the digital meshes interconnecting and in many cases operating all the public and private sector activities for communities would re-shape our regional boundaries. Much to the surprise and displeasure of some parties (as you could imagine) the resulting prediction was very close to that of Rory from the Greater Green Triangle, in that funding and resources would have to be given to the regions in the hope that they could make them work.

This would result in State Government administrations retreating to a more streamlined supporting role. This concept was later discussed at length by the national chair of the local government authorities and the then deputy Prime Minister who was seeking substantial cash from the sale of Telstra to fund at least six regional government clusters.

The idea was to provide the sort of infrastructure now spoken about in Smart Cities and Regions and, more importantly, to develop the skill sets so that these clusters could shift into a role of driving innovation, skills and start-ups, and attract seed funding. This in turn, would enable Federal government to fund regional initiatives directly bypassing State Governments who have been known to require heavy administrative charges.

All this was perhaps a little bit before its time and some of the concern from Canberra was the issue of culture and skills within administration which would take some time to transform even after getting the resources.

Which brings me to my support for John and his unwavering effort and determination to provide Australian regions, industries and small business with the tools that can help them help themselves and get to where they need to be.

My speciality centres around designing the preconditions to create meaningful and measurable value that can be captured and applied to help fund and operate the infrastructure that regions need in order to realise their own aspirational journey.

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One job at a time…

Work as we have known it is dying. Careers are dead. Offices are disappearing slowly. Intriguingly, there is still a Careers Advisors Association in Australia, though I wonder what they know that nobody else does.

Work is now contracts, part time and freelance. Even academia, government and professional services are increasingly shifting into contractual insecurity.

There is still stability at the top of course, which is what you would expect with senior managers, vice chancellors and directors looking after themselves, but it is now virtually impossible to steadily climb the “ladder” unless you begin at the top by starting your own business.

So how easy will it be for our children to navigate this new world of work? We continue to make it increasingly difficult for them compared to how it used to be. Free education for instance.

Are we preparing them properly for this much harsher world or still selling them ancient myths and dreams based on our educational years and working experience?

For what is this madness, that a generation of politicians who received a free education that gave them a chance of success in a job rich world, condemn the current generation to pay for their own education in a world where jobs disappear daily?

And we are doing this to them. It is not their fault. It is our fault.

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Plans and more plans…when we need action.

 

Government is good at creating plans. Not so good at action.

And one thing I have noticed from years of looking at economic strategies, roadmaps and plans is that they are all the same.

Change the name and the pictures and a few words, and bingo – another roadmap or plan saying exactly the same as the last one.

Sometimes they ARE exactly the same as the last one – the policy officer or consultancy involved failing to change all the names properly when delivering the cookie cutter report.

Why not download all strategies from the internet and just change the names. It would be cheaper and the outcomes would be the same.

There is a common structure to all economic development strategies and industry roadmaps.

The first section is full of research, the information that defines the uniqueness of a region or industry sector. The next section is full of reviews of what is changing, how the region or sector compares with others, and what the future trends seemed to suggest. These sections are where all the hard analysis and thinking are being done.

The last section is where the cookie cutter comes into action – future plans, the strategy for action and investment. This section is where hard analysis and thinking and uniqueness flies out the window.

Because this section required imagination and creativity which traditional planners and policy officers are not trained to deliver.

It’s not their fault.

So they fall back on platitudes and generalities often plundered from other strategies from around the world. And the uniqueness of the solution flies out the window with the rest of it.

Yet when it comes to objectives, there is universal agreement.

“We want things to be better”. Which is hard to argue with.

More jobs, more collaboration, more exports, more investment, better technology, skills and training, more large businesses moving into the area, state or country, more housing, better roads, better aged care, better schooling, more social amenities, more tourism, a better future for our children and grandchildren and so on.

And we want to be leaders in…(insert an issue here).

You name it and put it in. That is what most departments do. But there is never much detail on how all these things are going to be achieved…just a long list of wishes and dreams wrapped up in a professionally designed brochure, which the Mayor or Minister can be proud of.

Because thinking about the future is tough stuff. Action even harder.

Looking back is easy. Even pulling together all the statistics, tables and charts is achievable given enough time.

Looking forwards is very hard. And invariably wrong. Especially today with so many externalities, disruptions and connections shifting the solid ground we used to rely on.

And creating new solutions to old problems is even harder. It requires a different mindset. A joined up, creative mindset.

By default, we end up with a cookie cutter approach to regional and national, departmental and economic strategy. And the report, plan, roadmap, 2050 brochure is published and then nothing happens.

Which is a problem for us all. 

We actually need fresh creative thinking now like never before.

“We will be the smartest city, state or nation in the world”. We will attract the smartest individuals, smartest businesses and largest corporates to our city or country.”

Dream on

Every city will be the smartest city. Every obvious technological option will be milked by everybody…at slightly different speeds, but by everybody.

And in many cases the followers will become leaders, milking the technological possibilities more quickly because they carry no baggage and leapfrog the smug. The world outside our borders is not static. It is moving on all fronts at speed. We need to move faster and smarter.

The real strengths of any region or state are what they have always been. Its industries. Its people. The climate. Water. Environment. Culture. Access to the ports and airports. The interesting things to see and do.

Technology does not bestow unique advantage, but it can magnify and catalyse advantages that already exist.

That which is common to all is not a strength. But that which is unique could be.

Every region is different and should magnify its difference not copy anybody and everybody else.

In advertising terms, focus on the USP – the unique selling proposition. Polish the stone. Create a gem. Add value. And drop the commodity mindset into the rubbish bin where it belongs.

The fundamentals haven’t changed. Technology is just an enabler. A powerful and disruptive one.

And cities, regions and governments have to accept something has changed forever.

There are no edges any more. The influence of geography is diminished. The power of the media is fragmented. Information is instantly accessible. The customer is informed and empowered. 

In a digital environment where any statement or commentary is checkable and discussible…honesty and authenticity is mandatory.

So strategies of all kinds – social, political, economic, environmental and digital - have to align with the new reality to be useful and have to be rewritten to recognise the reality of the change.

This is what has taken politicians by surprise.

Across the planet, along with every other sector in society, politicians and political parties are being disrupted by the digital revolution.

Trump, Hanson, May, Le Pen, Brexit and hung parliaments are all symptoms of this disruption. There is no going back.

I repeat, in a digital environment where any statement is checkable and discussible…honesty and authenticity is mandatory.

And in a digital world where connection, collaboration and integration are inevitable, joined up thinking and joined up solutions are also mandatory.

Which creates a problem for government, because it is not structured to manage the new digital environment. It is still structured for the industrial revolution with its departments (19th century). And the digital world is not organised in that way (21st century).

No departments. Internetworks.

19th century thinking in a 21st century digital revolution is where we mostly live today.

Like it or not, we have to start thinking in a different way.

That means collaboration and that means shared value. It means harvesting the best ideas, and they can come from anywhere.

Left wing and right wing has lost meaning. Connected and joined up is the new operational modality.

Our left hand does not rebel against our right hand. The body politic must integrate for the good of the nation.

One side of parliament does not have all the good ideas. Good ideas are anywhere and everywhere.

The digital revolution demands a management model that reflects the new reality, or we will not flourish in the digital age. Shared value.

In many ways it doesn’t matter what entities we use as the basis for collaboration. We can use those that exist – councils, states and territories, corporates and individuals.

What does matter is the required “joined up” thinking and vision, and as a result the “joined up” strategies to reach the “joined up goals.

In the absence of visionary government, what can we do about jobs and growth?

We are not helpless. There are a lot more of us than there are of them. Which means access to a lot more brains, a lot more experience, a lot more ideas and a lot more enthusiasm.

And the internet provides a platform for collaborative action that has proven itself time and again. So let’s use it.

And focus on productive industries - agriculture, creative industries, defence, manufacturing, medical and health, METS and tourism. These are the industries that offer the possibility of high value, high wage jobs.

Add value through design, branding, licensing, promotion and advertising. Match productive industries with R&D from universities.

Connect businesses for collaborative action. Share successful case studies and projects across, within and between regions. Connect regions for collaborative action on jobs and regional growth.

Export. Showcase our value-added productive industries to the world. Target the 20 or so major overseas markets with our value-added products and services.

Keep doing the above.

Simple. Pragmatic. Practical. Agnostic.

We need more money for Australia - money to pay for education, health and aged care. For business investment and innovation.

And we need that income to come from selling a wider range of value added goods and services to the world.

So we need to export more things. We need to export to more markets and we need to add value to as much of what goes out the door as possible. 

More money coming into Australia will lead to more jobs. More value adding will lead to more high value jobs.  

Robots are great. Automation can be a very good thing. Software is changing the world. But we have to go back to basics on this stuff. These are all tools. They are all mechanisms to help us become more efficient, more effective, do things quicker, more reliably and intelligently.

But for what? What is the objective of this vastly increased and automated efficiency?

Health. Happiness. Justice. Welfare. Tranquility. Peace. Add your objective to this list.

We humans are the most important part of the digital equation.

This is a revolution and we are still in the early stages. CEOs, boards and managers have to understand that technology tools are still imperfect. Technology tools do not yet have the agility and flexibility or intelligence that humans do.

And moving too quickly can create more trouble than it’s worth. The Census, Queensland Health and Centrelink are the most immediate examples of poor implementation of technology, but there are many others.

So we should never lose sight of what the revolution is all about. It should be about improving the status for all. Lifting the game. Fair go. Leaving nobody behind.  

And leaving the “room” we entered in a better condition than when we arrived. For our kids and our grandkids. Like farmers do. 

We are all heroes in the digital revolution. We have to be a 21st century team of collaborative but independent thinkers.

And our focus has to shift towards shared value so we can all benefit in our much bigger competition with the rest of the world. In the digital revolution no man is an island and no island is an island either, no matter how big it is.

The digital revolution takes no prisoners. And the countries that move fastest to reorganise around share value will be the winners.

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