Forget the Asian century – let’s make it about innovation

Forget the Asian century – let's make it about innovation

The federal government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper has, commendably, developed a new vision for this country.

Unfortunately, it is wrong.

In a highly competitive, rapidly changing and time-poor global environment, a more inspiring and valuable vision is to become the most creative, innovative and productive nation on the planet by 2025.

Let’s choose the key sectors in which we choose to compete, and not just improve these capabilities, but aim to lead the world. In mining, for example, or medical research – we are already well on the way.

This vision is more motivating, engaging and transforming. While I support the dramatic expansion of Asian language training, imagine the implications for our education sector of teaching creative thinking in every school and university, rather than rote learning.

Australia cannot compete on cost when it comes to regional employment. We need to compete on energy, ideas and innovation. Our managers and leaders simply have to develop new products, services, and business models to compete successfully not just in Asia but also in the rest of the world.

Finally, in a time when ‘more is expected from less’ we need to find smarter ways of unlocking productivity from our people. This challenge is more than an IR battle between politicians. It requires new thinking and ways of working.

Most of all, becoming the most creative, innovative and productive nation will challenge the way we see ourselves. In business, we seem to be content with following rather than leading. Australia could instead become the test-bed for experimentation and innovation for all multinationals.

We have a thriving, robust democracy, relatively strong economic growth, smart people, a prosperous society and amazing educators. Few nations in our region have all these attributes. It’s given us a head-start. Let’s reimagine not only whom we sell to but also how we do it.

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