Securing Australia’s Future: Capabilities for Australian enterprise innovation. ACOLA, 2016.

It is widely accepted that Australia needs an innovative, flexible and creative workforce with the capabilities to enable the country to maximise its opportunities. While technical and scientific capabilities are recognised as critical, there is a growing awareness that innovation also requires people who understand business, systems, culture, and how society uses and adopts new ideas.

The overwhelming conclusion of this report is that the capabilities for Australian enterprise innovation require a broad mix of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, knowledge derived from the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) disciplines, in addition to management and entrepreneurial skills (motivations to start and grow a business to meet customer and end-user demand).

In our knowledge economy, the value generated by ‘making things’, or physical production, represents a decreasing source of business value – and broader national economic value. The higher-order sources of value are in research into new product development, consumer analytics, sales, marketing, branding, packaging, distribution, and post-sales services areas.

Moreover, creating value is becoming increasingly complex, calling for a wide range of skills and capabilities across different business functions and different business organisations. In turn, this multitude of capabilities calls for a broad ‘skills mix’ and for exemplary management skills that address sourcing, production, market, sales, and distribution imperatives.

Australia’s understanding of management as a capability and a resource is far less sophisticated than in the US, UK and Europe. This may reflect our economic history, our commodity culture, and the low level of complexity in industrial outputs. Management is often seen as an unnecessary cost or wasted overhead.

Furthermore, Australia does not generally celebrate management performance, and management biographies tend to focus on ‘rogue entrepreneurs’ rather than Australians who have built global businesses. In the US, management has long been regarded as the visible hand that guides organisations to commercial success.

Business associations, business schools, professional organisations and leaders in regional innovation ecosystems have a role in lifting the profile of management as a critical element in driving Australia’s innovation future.

 

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