Collaborate to Compete – by John Sheridan

Australia fails to comprehend the vast changes taking place as the world goes online, claims John Sheridan. But Australia is brimming with opportunity, if only we could harness digitalization to change economic fortunes.

The world is wet. And the sky is a blue circle.

A frog in a well has a unique and limited view of the universe.

But are we different from the frog?

Due to peer pressure, upbringing, time, and “permission,” we mostly lose our curiosity as we age, adopt a range of fixed views of how things are, and are then rewarded with certifications, titles and labels.

Becoming an expert takes effort and time. But focusing on one subject means losing focus on others, becoming compartmentalised.

This suited society well during the Industrial Revolution. Divide processes into steps. Division of management into departments. Division of responsibilities between managers, directors, ministers and boards.

But we have now become blind to the new interconnected world of wired and wireless technologies. Multinationalism and corporatization. Software and robotics.

This has created a multitude of “tricky problems” that require global solutions and collaboration to solve.

We are good at specialization, but not good at generalization. We do not consider problems in all their interconnected complexity.

Australia’s thorny problems have thrived in the gaps between the silos.

We have become so efficient thanks to the lessons of the industrial revolution, that we are paralyzed in the face of the digital revolution, with all the challenges and opportunities it offers.

The 21st century world is full of 20th century experts. When we need 21st century digital strategists. Not just for one organization, but for industries, regions, nations and the whole world.

An Australian federal minister once said, “We’re a big country, with a small population and we’re crazy about collaboration.”

Politicians should know that there is as much collaboration in the Federal Parliament as anywhere else in Australia.

In fact, we don’t know how to do it. We don’t know how to support it. We don’t know how to encourage it. And we don’t know how to finance it.

Collaboration requires permission. CEOs, managers, boards must allow this to happen. Encourage it to happen. Which is hard, when they’re all “hard-wired” into next quarter’s ROI and bottom line.

Some organizations have recognized the potential. Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, etc. for a business reward. The ghosts of security and protection. China for control of 1.4 billion citizens.

But here in Australia, we always think of the 20th century. A crowd of frogs in wells.

Especially here in Australia. We lag behind the rest of the world – 23rd out of 131 for innovation, 86th out of 133 for economic complexity.

Current employment statistics look good, but hide the impacts of digital disruption on jobs.

We have a lot of “low value, low pay” jobs, but far fewer “high value, high pay” jobs. And the ongoing impacts of technology in the workplace must be managed if we are to reap the potential benefits.

It’s easy to celebrate the short-term benefits of adopting software, automation, robotics and AI on our societies. But there is a need to look a little further into the future – towards collected and logged impacts across multiple industry sectors while we have time to manage the impacts.

If we continue in this way, we will become by default “Mexico in the south pacific”.

We need more than networks of information, we need networks of knowledge, that is, of sharing, between silos, between networks, between clusters, between sectors, between regions, linking the obvious and the less obvious.

Knowledge networks mean vision, direction and aggregation of information for a purpose – to solve the wide range of thorny problems we face.

Leverage the capabilities we have in our scale-ups across productive industries – agriculture, creative industries, defense, space, ICT, manufacturing, medical, METS, smart trades and tourism.

It is a time of immense challenges. But also a period of immense opportunities.

We can connect industries and regions. We can connect generations and countries.

We have the mineral and intellectual resources. And we can put them to good use to become a value-added country creating products and services that can be used domestically and exported around the world.

We have the brains and the resources.

Exciting possibilities. It can be done.

After twenty years in advertising as a creative director working for multinationals in three countries, John Sheridan co-founded Digital Business Insights to help organizations leverage the benefits of the new digital economy. He is the co-creator of the RED tool boxan innovation platform for Australia’s productive industrial sectors.

Photo: Federal Parliament – ​​as much collaboration here as elsewhere in Australia?

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