Exec slams Australia's 'poor' innovation record

Gartner senior vice president Bob Hayward used the Symposium keynote speech to lambaste Australian companies for their poor track record on innovation.

Pausing briefly to apologise "if I sound harsh", Hayward said Australian organisations in general have not proved "fertile soil for innovation".

In the face of a threatened global recession, the reluctance of corporate boards to embrace innovative is closing off an important avenue for recovery, he said.

To blame were management and boards "dominated with people from a legal or accounting background (and used to) milking profits from a cosy domestic market with low-risk, unimaginative strategies".

Innovation spurred by technology change is one of the few engines of growth still available to business.

Yet the environments most enterprises have developed to maximise operational effectiveness and minimise risk are inimical to innovation, Hayward said.

The current economic slowdown is exacerbating the paradox because cost-cutting, conservative policies are seen as survival tactics in the face of economic hard times.

Hayward urged executive management not to misread the dotcom meltdown as a signal the era of invention is over.

"It is not even close to over. If anything, the era of disruptive innovation triggered by technology is in the process of accelerating."

To prove the point, Gartner research director Simon Hayward ran through a grab bag of recent innovations that promise to alter office, vehicle and personal environments. They ranged from wearable computers and OnStar's car-based information and entertainment system to Teleportec's hologram-like videoconferencing technology.

Alarmingly, not one was from an Australian source.

Bob Hayward said the single largest challenge for Australian organisations not used to innovating is the acceptance of increased risk.

"The trick is to proactively manage the risks, fail quickly if you are going to fail and -- most importantly -- harvest all the learning available from the experience."

He advised businesses to review their risk management processes, ensure each risk has a named owner and set learning objectives for each initiative.

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