What needs to be done to make sure the ‘ideas boom’ reaches all of Australia, not just Sydney and Melbourne

By Mike Mansbach

Australia is at a crossroads.

With the mining boom over, heads are turning to innovation as the new cash cow but startup culture needs to mushroom in order to drive the economy.

Sydney dominates the startup scene in Australia with a burgeoning innovation culture, entrepreneur focused events and access to a melting pot of international business influence.

In 2015 there were more than 20 events held in Sydney including the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance, dedicated to giving businesses the tools to drive innovation.

Melbourne’s scene is also growing with the launch of the Creative Innovation 2015 event, but other metro and regional areas don’t have access to the same culture that’s driving massive change and growth.

According to the latest Crossroads 2015 whitepaper, “Sydney and Melbourne’s startup ecosystems have developed more than any other Australian city and all other capital cities are significantly below critical mass of start-up expertise”.

Blue Jeans Network research shows there’s a thirst for innovation and collaboration amongst regional businesses with 39% of businesses outside of the mainland capital cities likely to consider collaborating on a regular basis, compared to just 24% of businesses in capital cities.

But with limited access to other companies, what cultural and technological processes can help broaden the buzz of innovation to regional areas? How can we ensure geographical boundaries don’t hold the economy’s growth or limit the potential?

Amplifying events

One way to extend the reach of the startup movement is to make the physical events online and interactive.

By using online video collaboration tools an event with 500 attendees in the room can be transformed into something much, more powerful, addressing up to 3000 online participants from all over the country. Beyond simply pushing the video stream to passive viewers, all 3000 online participants can be part of the conversation, virtually raising their hand to be admitted by a moderator before connecting with the group face to face via video.

This type of technology means young businesses, entrepreneurs and ambitious Australians can get access to the great minds that are accelerating startup growth in major metro areas like Sydney and Melbourne.

A rethink of how events are run and who gets access is timely with the NBN rollout staggering forward, with over 1,000,000 premises serviceable as of December 2015. The greater bandwidth makes real-time online video collaboration a possibility for those previously precluded by slow internet speeds.

Joining events via video conference is now a viable alternative to costly travel across the country for many Australians.

A cultural shift

Providing access through technology is one way to increase startup buzz but instilling innovative practices throughout a company goes beyond the physical and requires cultural and organisational shifts to succeed.

True innovation requires collaboration, creative thinking, brutal honesty and a willingness to embrace failure. The magic starts when technology encourages and facilitates these processes, creating a harmony where great minds are stretched and traditional thinking is challenged.

Some quick fire ways to start embracing a startup mentality include:

• Allowing ideas to surface from anywhere in the hierarchy and try new things across the business consistently
• Knowing quickly whether a new product or service has the legs to succeed or not and respond instantly
• Removing all obstacles to cross functional and/or geographical collaboration
• Understanding and harness the value of failure
• Partnering with existing, prospects or 3rd parties at each step of the innovation process
• Capturing customer insights from every available source

With small changes to modernise the way events are run, education around innovative practices within organisations and better access to great minds across the country, Australia’s hopes for a nation of innovators remain in sight.

While the jury is still out on the Malcolm Turnbull’s $1 billion ‘ideas boom’ vision for the future, technology and great minds will undoubtedly be at the beating heart of any transformation.

Mike Mansbach is the president of the Blue Jeans Network and has over 20 years experience in driving results, customer experiences and preparing companies for rapid growth.

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