It’s been great to see Russel Howcroft putting the spotlight on creativity over the past few weeks, and what it means for Australia. At a time when the world is recognising the increasing importance of creativity and innovation to economic performance and growth, Australia is lagging behind. To put it bluntly, we have a culture problem.
One of the fundamental blockers to creativity in the corporate Australia context is that, generally speaking, we do not operate in a risk tolerant business environment. This primarily has its roots in our history, with the backbone of the Australian economy having been built on stable lower risk industries. As a result, the mindset of much of Australian business today remains relatively risk avoidant, with a preference for dealing with the safety of the status quo.
Contrast this with the United States, a country that was primarily built out of entrepreneurial individuals who took a risk by migrating to a land unseen to chance making their fortune. Much of the economic success of the United States can be attributed to a risk tolerant mindset that permeates the business environment. Culturally, there is support for new ideas and new ways of doing things. It’s not perfect, but there is ongoing innovation, evident most recently in the success of the start up culture.
If Australia wants to become more creative and by extension more innovative, a key part of this is going to be embracing a more risk tolerant business culture. Creativity in the workplace is about coming up with new and useful ideas that make things better. In order to take advantage of the great many benefits that creativity delivers (greater profitability, greater employee engagement and reduced staff turnover, just to name a few), organisations need to be comfortable trying new things and accepting that some won’t work.
Becoming more risk tolerant doesn’t mean throwing good judgement and prudence out the window. But it does mean taking an inventory of what aspects of the business can withstand the uncertainty involved in the process of trying something new, failing, and trying again for the purposes of achieving something that will ultimately make the organisation better and more successful.
As more and more organisations take this approach, Australia will develop a culture of creativity. This is what we need.