Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

pain or gain from structural change?

pain or gain from structural change?

Fanned by the hurricane that is the digital world, creeping globalisation and undeniable climate change, mature economies are undergoing huge structural change. Christopher Rollyson argues that the major driver of change is actually people placing greater value on consumer experience.  They demand better choice, access, convenience and quality at a time when consumer power has never been stronger.

The pace of change is certainly accelerating, as is the noise from many affected by job losses in industries like manufacturing, retail and traditional media. There are plenty of ostriches playing the blame game – “It’s the carbon tax!” (even before its introduction) or, “it’s Fair Work Australia” or “it’s the exchange rate”. Conditioned by a legacy of handouts and bailouts, the complaints are also generally accompanied by calls for the government “to do something”.

Fortunately, there are also business leaders who see the change towards a knowledge economy as an opportunity rather than a problem. Peter Roberts’ recent piece in The Australian Financial Review highlights how enlightened companies are finding the way to adapt and benefit. He cites companies like GE, which has identified $30 billion of near term opportunities in Australia in areas like LNG and wind power. We don’t all have the deep pockets of GE, but there are other impressive examples of adaption to a changing world, such as the gradual transition of LJ Hooker from property developer to sustainability manager. My own experience suggests organisations that embrace environmental and sustainability challenges, tend to drive costs down and foster innovation more rapidly than those that choose to treat them as an imposition.

The knowledge economy isn’t the exclusive domain of high tech and big companies. In reality, the biggest changes will come from the application of innovation and knowledge in the low to medium technology sectors, which form the bulk of the economy. These sectors include food processing, transport, the hospitality industry, and service industries in general. They provide the possibility for intelligent customer-focused business solutions that will attract consumers like magnets.

Julian Cribb has written a compelling opinion piece called Australia in 2050. He paints a picture of the biggest economic driver being knowledge (including technology and advice) and thebiggest export sector climate adaptation, where we use our own natural climate volatility experience as an intellectual springboard for creating new industries. Opportunities will span food production, water management, construction of homes and workplaces, urban design and tropical medicine.

What can governments do? The most relevant policy responses are likely to be around supporting financial pressures borne by innovative firms, and re-focusing the role of Australia’s knowledge infrastructure, particularly universities and scientific institutions. There will also need to be a much greater commitment to R&D, in the way that China has committed to spend an incredible 2.2% of GDP annually ($320 billion) on R&D in the latest five year plan. Such responses are required to diminish the debilitating brain drain from Australia to places like Silicon Valley. We need to see the level of debate about our rapidly changing economy, migrate from whingeing and blame, to insight and possibility.

image by jason hoover

australia's corporate blindspots

australia’s corporate blindspots

Inspiring case studies about Asian market penetration, leadership in technology and global excellence in sustainability programs, show what Australia is capable of. However, across the ASX 200 and beyond, we tend to lag in some game-changing areas. While it’s risky to generalise, I believe that corporate Australia tends to underestimate three important strategic themes:

  1. Fully understanding the impact of China on a number of fronts – as it shifts from a low cost manufacturing base to the biggest consumer market in the world; as it moves from a user of technology to a creator of technology (2.2% of GDP in the next five year plan on R&D); and as the need for primary resources (minerals and food) continues to grow. Geoff Raby, retiring Australian Ambassador to China, said that the one thing that surprised him most about his time in Beijing, was how few CEO’s and Chairs of Australian companies paid him a visit.
  2. Treating environmental and sustainable challenges as opportunities rather than impositions. There are many ASX 200 companies with lengthy annual sustainability reports, however few demonstrate genuine belief that environmental responsibility and growing profitability are not mutually exclusive. We desperately need a mindset shift from compliance and complaint, to realism and possibility.
  3. Recognising the value of leading rather than lagging in embracing digital technology-based innovation. Although there is variation in responsiveness within the sectors, media and retail are two sectors which have been caught asleep at the wheel. Is this an age related phenomenon – as older people are in positions of responsibility? How many senior executives and directors have you heard pass off Twitter as being frivolous, rather than seeing its potential as a primary source of focused information? Yet I know many savvy over 60’s behaving like digital natives. No, it’s not age per se; it’s about mindset, openness to change and awareness.

In a global context, Australia business has performed relatively well in the last decade, supported by resources based economic growth, a sound banking and legal system and excellent corporate governance. After the GFC, some observers have suggested that this same good governance has trended towards risk aversion and consequent inertia.

As the world is turned on its head by the digital revolution, major shifts in the global economic balance, and the need to resuscitate an environmentally struggling planet, there is no room for board and executive risk aversion in these areas. While being in the “late adopter” or “laggard” group may not have threatened company survival in the past, today’s environment calls for a positioning as “early adopters” at worst, and “innovators” at best.

Peter Williams, CEO of Deloitte Digital, goes even further in suggesting that any board of directors or group of managers who are not moving fast to understand and harness changes that technology is delivering – social media, cloud computing, mobile devices and data – is abrogating its responsibility to deliver leadership and governance.

Over the next ten to twenty years, the future of Australia will be fall into three main areas – primary resources (minerals and food); the service economy, and the knowledge economy. Julian Cribb believes that by 2050, our economy could be 70% knowledge based. In China last month I saw evidence of the emerging demand for our capabilities in disciplines like urban planning, agricultural science, energy, information technology, architecture, engineering, water management and medicine. We have a long way to go to understand the scope and shape of that knowledge economy, let alone create it. The building blocks exist, but success will depend on the ability of corporate (and political) Australia to gain insights and show leadership in the three areas that we underestimate.

What can we do? CEO’s need to get on the court and play – go to China and understand the market and people. Get immersed in the new technology – as ABC CEO Mark Scott does, personally sending 140 relevant tweets a week. He knows the medium and can talk the language because he has become involved. Shift from a mindset of lobbying Government about regulation, to one of understanding which way the wind is blowing and putting up the spinnaker. Get rid of dead wood on boards – people who are reluctant to change and enjoy peer group support for their scepticism. Much focus is given to gender diversity on boards – we need some mindset diversity as well! It’s not too late but we need to act quickly.

choosing and sustaining a life partner

choosing and sustaining a life partner

February 18, 2011  |  knowledge, life, main blog, motivation, philosophy  |  2 Comments

A reporter asked a man who had been married for 70 years what the secret to his long marriage was. He replied, “Two words….Yes Dear!” 

We celebrated my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary last year and while my dad does offer plenty of “yes dears”, the two of them are also sustained by a mature, devoted, lasting love that is almost beyond analysis. Yet we all find it hard not to go there – analysing what makes successful and unsuccessful relationships – looking for the recipe, if one exists.

Maybe it starts with us as individuals. In the same way that the flight attendant tells us to “put our own oxygen mask on before helping others”, the ability to care for, and share with, a life partner depends a lot on how well equipped we are for the journey ourselves.

Relationship counsellors often talk about the ability of a couple to live in all four rooms in their relationship – the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual rooms. Their proposition goes further to define the qualities which enable “mastery” of each room – discipline in the physical, wisdom in the mental or intellectual room, compassion in the emotional and integrity in the spiritual. Why I am therefore not surprised that my parents are one of those rare couples who exist comfortably in all four rooms?

So, even if we have come reasonably well equipped, having even modest doses of discipline, wisdom, compassion and integrity, how do we find a like-minded soul?

The world is awash with books, tools and advisers making a living from solving this question. The internet has certainly made it easier to meet more people, and of course, lady luck still plays a big role in bringing people together.

At the risk of trying to simplify very complex issues, I have a couple of thoughts to share about partner selection, borrowed from others, which may be worth reflecting on:

  1. A friend of mine, who has relationships at top of her mind right now, says that she asks just two questions about a potential partner. They are – “Would I want to have a child just like him?” …and, “Would I trust him with my life?” Two positive answers are needed to take the next step.
  2. Others have suggested that for successful partnerships, three prequisites must exist in combination – Chemistry, Communication and Commitment. Sounds pretty good…..but what if one is missing?

On relationship maintenance and nurturing, Kirsten Cronlund, founder of Lemonade from Lemons, adds another dimension in understanding heterosexual relationships. She suggests that the two secrets that are important for men to transform (or achieve successful) relationships are – # Secret 1. Women feel nurtured when men assist with tasks. # Secret 2. Women long for men to welcome their influence. She also has two secrets for women. # Secret 1. The goal of men is to reduce complexity in their lives. # Secret 2. What men want most from women is to feel appreciated. Does that resonate?

Then there is the much discussed difference between romantic love and mature love. When the sparks stop flying and the course of ordinary life weakens the intensity, relationships can be challenged. Individual needs and differences conflict and lead to frustration. Flaws become pronounced, criticism increases and sexual excitement abates. (Remember that joke about the marbles in the jar!)

Lucky couples who get through this phase and reach mature, sustaining, love find that understanding is augmented by acceptance. Tolerance is reinforced by patience and respect for differences. Commitment is redefined by a determination to communicate and compromise, rather than to leave. Couples in mature love embrace openness, accepting that they are “delightfully flawed” and feel safe and satisfied within the space they’ve created. There can also be the X factor – devotion, where bottomless joy comes from giving to another, the peace surrounding that giving and the deep understanding of connection. This is lasting love.