The innovation imperative

I had the opportunity this month to open the Australian Financial Review’s Innovation Summit. This is what I shared as the innovation imperative:

Today, as we come together virtually, I acknowledge that we are all joining this meeting from across the nation on what always was and always will be the land of its indigenous owners. For me, I live and work on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging as well as to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia.

Re-inventing is not innovating, and so it is incumbent on all of us to seek to learn from the oldest living culture in the world who have many lessons for us as we look for new ways to live and work.

Good morning everyone and welcome.

Innovation is all about the return on risk. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that in a crisis there is no low-risk option.

That is why there has never been a more important time for us to have a summit such as this. Today we’re going to discuss vaccines, the space sector, quantum technologies, the future of work and much more.

As we meet today, we need to innovate just to stay in business, we need to take advantage of the disruption-driven innovation of 2020 and we need to rethink the role of innovation for the year and years ahead.

Today, many of us feel like we’ve innovated just-in-time to survive the year.

In fact, we’ve done much more than survive, with many businesses demonstrating that with the right approach they can thrive. We recognise, though, that we have moved from a long period of ongoing and near certain growth to one of uncertainty. We meet today to challenge Australia to find the growth in that uncertainty and meet it head on through innovation.

The COVID crisis has shortened the power distance in most organisations creating an environment ripe for innovation. Whether it is in the creation of new protective equipment, virtual business models or the rapid delegation of responsibility to make customer service decisions at speed.

People have found the confidence to take bold ideas to management and challenge the status quo.

We should take advantage of the COVID-driven disruption to thrive into the future

The vaccine technologies developed this year are going to improve lives well beyond COVID-19, potentially increasing lifespans by mitigating other diseases that tend to erode lives over time from the common to the chronic.

The digital muscles almost everyone has developed this year will serve us well as we find new productivity in virtually every sector from health and education through to manufacturing and agriculture.

We need to invest in infrastructure to leverage these digital muscles. Digital infrastructure to join the fragmented pieces together from telehealth to virtual learning. From digital twins to cyber protection. To support our transport, our supply chains and leverage the rapidly emerging space sector we will discuss today. This digital infrastructure will create the jobs we need for the future and equip Australians with the skills to fill them.

COVID demonstrated our ability to respond to a crisis. We now have the opportunity to transform ourselves to be more resilient and thrive as a result.

Last summer, our bushfire season was a stark reminder of the environmental reality of climate change. We’ve seen drought, fires, and floods have a devastating impact on so many Australians as well as our flora and fauna.

The physical risk of the changing climate is already clear as is the transition risks to our industries, cities and way of life.

As the world adapts and moves forward, we can reduce future economic shocks and make our contribution to mitigating the long-term damage by ensuring Australia’s transformation embraces a low carbon future.

Innovation can sit at the core of these challenges and help us find new solutions to complex problems. To make this happen, we need to rethink the role of innovation in our future.

Innovation is the collision of our organisational and national agendas with the learning and skills that we individually prioritise. To make sure these collisions keep happening and align to a longer-term agenda we need to learn from the crisis and have the courage to find ways to be deliberate in both the agendas we set and skills we seek to develop.

Today will give you an incisive look at some of the critical capabilities and issues that our nation needs to address to build a more sustainable and resilient economy, society and environment. The agendas and skills that need to collide will become clear to each of us.

Over the course of today you’ll hear how big challenges will need big solutions and how a year of unprecedented challenges has accelerated the forces of change in Australian business.

To help us summarise these big conversations we are being joined by a Graphic Recorder, Zahra, who will be creating live illustrations of our sessions, which will be displayed during breaks, and in the Deloitte event wrap-up summary, which we send out to all delegates afterwards.

So, on that note, welcome again to the Virtual AFR Innovation Summit for 2020 and thank-you.

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