Digital Business insights by John Sheridan >>

WORK as we have known it is dying. Careers are dead. Offices are disappearing slowly.

Intriguingly, there is still a Careers Advisors Association in Australia, though I wonder what they know that nobody else does.

Work is now contracts, part time and freelance. Even academia, government and professional services are increasingly shifting into contractual insecurity.

There is still stability at the top of course, which is what you would expect with senior managers, vice chancellors and directors looking after themselves, but it is now virtually impossible to steadily climb the ‘ladder’ unless you begin at the top by starting your own business. 

So how easy will it be for our children to navigate this new world of work? We continue to make it increasingly difficult for them compared to how it used to be. Free education for instance.

Are we preparing them properly for this much harsher world or still selling them ancient myths and dreams based on our educational years and working experience?

For what is this madness, that a generation of politicians who received a free education that gave them a chance of success in a job rich world, condemn the current generation to pay for their own education in a world where jobs disappear daily?

And we are doing this to them. It is not their fault. It is our fault.

We are the ones making the ‘business decisions’ justifying offshoring, outsourcing, freelancing, contracting and part time, taking the dubious advice of the ‘Big 4’ and other HR consultants driven by “having to make the most of a contracting budget”.

There is a choice here. But driven by fashion and “everybody else is doing it” we march down the “offshoring, outsourcing, contracts, redundancies” path towards an uncertain future. Freelancer.com is a good idea for Freelancer.com.

 

MILK IT FOR EVERYTHING

THERE IS AN OLD STORY about a King and his Queen. For some reason, his wife wanted to bathe in a pool filled with milk. Maybe it was good for her skin.

So the King asked all his subjects to bring a pot of milk and pour it into the pool overnight. And all night long in the darkness the subjects queued to make their contribution to the Queen’s complexion.

In the morning, the King and Queen awoke to find the pool filled with water.

What had happened? Each person had thought, “Milk costs money. Nobody will notice my single pot of water once it is poured into the swimming pool of milk.”

One pot at a time.

Businesses, corporates, universities and governments are all changing their employment models.

Offshoring, outsourcing, contracts, part time, casual, freelance.

One job at a time, the 20th century, secure, full time career model is disappearing. Forever.

And everybody thinks that their small change in practice won’t make any difference to the greater scheme of things.

One job at a time.

And ministers and policy makers stand and watch.

 

JOB INSECURITY

WE HAVE now moved from an employment environment of relative security to one of insecurity. With a safety net (Centrelink) designed around regular full time employment.

Work continues to evolve before our eyes, with two things happening at once. Jobs are disappearing (50 percent of them on the way) AND contractual conditions are changing at the same time. Lose. Lose.

Leading to far fewer jobs. Far less job security.

For most people a job is about identity and purpose, about finding a meaningful place in society, a place where effort is rewarded by a feeling of accomplishment as well as financial recompense.

So unemployment is a problem that undermines society, identity, self-respect, confidence and meaning. Unemployment acts like an illness, sapping strength and motivation.

For we tend to measure our value by what we do, not by what we are.

“What do you do for a living?” “Where do you work?” “What are your goals and ambitions?” “What have you achieved with your life so far?”

Now whether that is right or wrong, it is what most of us have come to believe … that our value and meaning in society is measured by what we do, how we earn a living, and the contribution we make.

All contributions are ultimately of portions of our most precious assets – our life, our time, our energy, our attention, our thoughts, our words and our deeds. We exchange our life for reward of some kind – money, fulfillment, recognition and other symbols of achievement.

That is why work is important. And why lack of work is a problem.

 

NATURE OF WORK CHANGED

AND THE NATURE of work has changed.

The traditional skills – of ‘hand’, ‘eye’ and ‘brain’ – now all demand ‘brain’.

But even the ‘brain’ jobs won’t deliver protection from digital disruption.

For automation is now poking its digital fingers into law firms, hospitals, schools, accountants, engineering, government, universities and mid-tier administration in corporations. A large proportion of the current work ‘force’ will very soon become the work ‘enfeebled’.

Who will look after their interests? Not the unions, because these are not traditional workers. Not the business associations or chambers of commerce, because they are not businesses either.

The self-employed and occasionally employed are trapped in the ever widening, policy gap between government, unions and business organisations, with no organisation looking out for their future.

They are part of an ever-growing host of people swept to one side by the currents of digital change, and the shortsightedness of policy makers.

Half the working or non-working population, whichever way you want to look at it.

The game is now rigged in the wrong direction.

It is like a perverse game of musical chairs, but without the music or indeed any sense of entertainment. Each week thousands and thousands of Australians are out there somewhere looking for a job.

And each week thousands and thousands of Australians don’t find one. Is this because they are not trying hard enough? No.

There are not enough jobs to go around.

 

DISAPPEARING JOB SECURITY

DISAPPEARING JOBS. Disappearing wages. Disappearing loyalty. Disappearing security. And this process is happening under our watch. Under the government’s watch, who seem unaware and unable to do anything about it.

No wonder people have lost faith in politicians. They talk. They watch. But do they see?

And digital has driven the change. And the continuing impact of computerisation, robotisation and automation is eliminating 50 percent of existing jobs.

And they are not being replaced. New low paid, part time jobs are arising but nowhere near the numbers or the quality required, to replace the dispossessed.

And it is not just full time jobs disappearing. Wages in the existing jobs queuing for elimination or transformation have stagnated.

The result?

Roughly 12.5 percent of people in Australia now live in households below the most severe poverty line used in international research – about 2.5 million people. In the USA it is close to 25 percent.

So we don’t have a lot to learn from Obama or Trump on that score.

Because of the way we connect jobs and value in our society, all these individual unemployed and underemployed Australians are deemed worthless. Surplus to need. The surplus humans in our society that we don’t know what to do with.

And high profile politicians judge them. Publicly. They lack backbone. They lack moral fibre. They are lazy. They are bludgers. They sponge off the rest of us … and so on.

And some high profile politicians even support the unfair, automated Centrelink debt recovery system that punishes the customers it is supposed to support.

Are those Centrelink customers bad people? Are those people losers?

Could they have known this was going to happen 20 or even 10 years ago? Did anybody let them know it was coming? No.

Yet the signs were there. And they still are. The digital revolution has barely begun to disrupt the society we live in. We still have a choice – to manage it for better or continue to let it just “do its thing”.

And the trends are clear. Though the predictions are somewhat confused, admittedly with some pundits still glibly writing off the scale of the change, suggesting that the jobs losses will be made up by job gains elsewhere. And most of those pundits have secure tenure in the ivory tower universities they comment from.

 

WHERE THE NEW JOBS?

THERE CAN be new jobs. There will be new jobs. But the quality of those jobs has shifted from productive industries to services and those services jobs are largely in the ‘wage slave’ categories. And many of those service industries are government funded directly or indirectly.

There will be new high value jobs but only for a new elite – those able to manage and contribute meaningfully with new digital skills – designing the robots, the software and systems to support the new digital world.

We don’t have to accept a passive role in this revolution.

Or a one track view of digital opportunity. It is not all about STEM.

Of course, STEM is important. But we can’t compete head to head with the scale of STEM skills investment in China, Japan, Korea, India, the EU, USA and elsewhere.

We have to be smarter. We have to build on our intrinsic strengths – agriculture, mining, tourism, isolation (clean, green, governance and quality control), innovation and ideas.

The real money in the digital revolution comes from origination. From design, innovation and creative ideas. And from the transformation of creative ideas into productive industries, with all that entails – investment, design, engineering, branding, more design, marketing and sales – the complete package.

Developing the skills of ‘hand, eye and brain’ in a coordinated way. Not championing one at the expense of the others. Aligning these capabilities together to produce, market, sell and support – holistically.

That is where policy should be directed … towards whole of industry development supported by interconnected TAFEs, Design Schools and Universities. ‘Think tanks’ aligned with ‘Do tanks’.

 

AUSSIE INNOVATION HIJACKED

SOME COUNTRIES do this really well. We don’t. Currently our innovations and ideas are being highjacked.

We push our inventors out into the new world alone to be picked off, seduced and mugged. The vulture capitalists fly in and fly off with our IP and we seem to consider this a success story.

Well it’s not. It’s a story of failure.

Failure to build a sustainable, productive industry base here in Australia.

We have become a nursery for ‘IP harvesters’ from all over the world, who fly in, pick up and fly off with our future.

Rather than a nursery for Australian IP, innovation, growth and production. It’s not good enough.

Our strategy is wrong. We need to be nurturing a broad mix of skills and capabilities to support sustainable, productive industries and that means designers and advertisers, it means artisans, trades and craftspeople, as well as STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

STEAM not STEM.

It all joins up.

Put these skills together in the right way and new things will be created. We need to create ‘hot houses’ for innovation. ‘Think tanks’ and ‘Do tanks’. More than just incubators. We need to orchestrate serendipity.

Incubators are fine. But we need to create catalysers – places where complementary skillsets are deliberately brought together to create and explore new options.

Creative collaboration works. Creative teams have long been an important part of advertising and design agencies, successfully bringing different skillsets to bear on any predefined challenge.

The more we can own and manage the high value parts of the manufacturing and production process, the better.  And the more all the different people involved continually meet and discuss the production process the better. Collaboration.

 

KEEP IT TOGETHER

WHEN PRODUCTION is moved away from design, opportunities to learn and improve on the job disappear. The closer the better. Clustering.

We have to identify and support the scaleups (roughly 5 percent of our businesses) – the over five year old, high growth businesses that generate 50 percent of the new jobs. We must add value to them through a strategic program of design, branding, marketing and advertising.

A NESTA report from 2009 offers some interesting insights. High growth companies represent roughly 5 percent of the business population but generate 50 percent of the new jobs.

High growth companies are roughly half high-tech companies and half low-tech. The majority are at least five years old. These companies are disproportionately innovative and the innovation appears to cause growth.

Innovative companies grow twice as fast (in employment and in sales).

High growth companies also affect the surrounding business environment – a 5 percent rise in employment from high growth firms leads to a 1 percent increase in the surrounding region.

This is a network effect. And a network effect that we should leverage and implement.

We have to create things, grow things, design things, make things, brand things and market goods and services to the world.

And we have to promote and export. Hard.

We can all do something.

And collectively we can do rather a lot if we put our minds to it.

To support start-ups and scale-ups. Share “what works”. Retain Australian innovation, ideas and IP within Australia. Vegemite is a case in point.

Add value to our goods and services. Showcase our goods and services to the world. And export more goods and services to more countries.

To earn the money to support new jobs.

To replace the jobs that are disappearing.

One job at a time.

*

John Sheridan is CEO of Digital Business insights, an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia, which focuses on helping businesses and communities adapt to, and flourish in, the new digital world. He is the author of Connecting the Dots and getting more out of the digital revolution. Digital Business insights has been researching and analysing the digital revolution for more than 15 years and has surveyed more than 50,000 businesses, conducting in-depth case study analysis on more than 350 organisations and digital entrepreneurs. Now DBi is turning that research into action through a series of digital business development platforms, the first of which launched in 2016, the Manufacturing Toolbox. DBi has now also launched a series of international online trade showcases, promoting Australian goods and services to specific countries and promoting use of those showcases in those countries. The first, just launched, is the Australia-Taiwan Trade Showcase. Coming soon are trade showcases for Japan, Hong Kong-China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and India.

http://www.db-insights.com/

 

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IT MAY SEEM like the Digital Toolbox business development platforms, created by Brisbane-based Digital Business insights (DBi) have come from nowhere. Yet, it has been a dramatic innovation more than 15 years of Australia-wide business research in the making.

DBi announced the ‘open for business’ launch of the Manufacturing Toolbox – established to assist Australian manufacturers develop capability and offer a unique avenue for national and international showcasing – in early October. Hot on its heels in November comes the Agriculture Toolbox.

Not far behind it is the Mining and Energy Toolbox, expected in December. 

These toolboxes are a Queensland innovation which could provide far-reaching benefits for Australian industry – and for Australian regions, too, as specific toolboxes are developed to connect regional business and industry. The Toolboxes are being  steadily rolled out with key business, government and not-for-profit partnerships.

DBi chief executive John Sheridan said the first two Digital Toolboxes are designed to help Australia’s manufacturing and agriculture business leaders develop, build capability and showcase their products and services to new markets, both local and overseas.

Mr Sheridan said associated with the Toolboxes were ‘curated showcases’ presenting best of breed Australian products and services to national and international markets. These can be organised to suit specific countries and the first to be developed is the Taiwan-Australia Manufacturing Showcase, in association with Queensland Trade and Investment and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office.

“The Toolboxes are free to join,” Mr Sheridan said. “You can then upload introductory information on your business into the Manufacturing Showcase – an online catalogue where Australia’s manufacturers and primary producers can present their products nationally and to the world. 

“The Toolbox showcase already has visitors from China and Taiwan spending an average of 20 minutes looking at manufacturers on the site, with visitors from 50 countries in all.

“In response, we are now creating specific showcases for major overseas markets, working with the business councils to showcase the sectors of most interest to them – food, biotech, ‘green’, smart machinery, circular economy, ICT and so on.”

Business Acumen is the media partner for the Digital toolbox program and is a member of the advisory panel. The web and online learning technologies behind the Digital Toolboxes has been created by DBi co-founder Geoffrey Grantham, also of Brisbane, whose previous credits include online training systems for the international automotive sector, utilised by TAFE and similar colleges in the US, Canada, South Africa and several South East Asian countries.

http://manufacturing.digitaltoolbox.org

http://agriculture.digitaltoolbox.org

 

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Digital Business insights by John Sheridan >>

ACCORDING to the Roy Morgan (Research) poll, unemployment in Australia is now at 10.4 percent with underemployment at 7.1 percent. Which means 2.249 million Australians are now looking for work, or looking for more work.

Add the ever increasing impacts of digital job destruction, ageism, lack of leadership and swiftly shifting job requirement skill sets and those figures will soon move higher, not lower.

And quicker not slower.

Inaction by the Federal Government is hard to understand. It’s been a year now with no meaningful action. Just lots of empty words. Even Clarke and Dawe from the ABC have now turned government inaction on our economy into a parody. 

See 'The importance of a strong team in sales and marketing' on the ABC website. Amusing, but far too close to the truth to be completely funny.

Why so little action?

Is the scale and scope of the “no jobs and no growth” problem just too large and wide reaching?

Is it too hard to respond to, because we can’t simply look overseas for a quick answer like we normally do – because they face the same problems themselves?

Have the federal rabbits just frozen in the headlights? Do they even have a clue?

Waiting is not an option. We have to do something. The problem will only grow. And it does so day by day.

And allied to this problem is the slowing economy, increasing household debt, near zero interest rates across the world leading to diminishing returns for investors, pensioners and those heading towards retirement.

Less work, lower wage growth, more debt and increased stress on mortgages and retirement funds.

Waiting is not an option. Action is required.

Driven by the digital revolution, we are moving from the old economy to the new economy. Like it or not.

And we have to build a supportive bridge to get us from old industries to new.

On the far side of the bridge, we have to start creating a diversified and broad productive industry base, with more exports selling higher value products and services to support more jobs and fund our future needs.

And government has to do two things. It has to support productive industries. But it also has to support the transition to these industries wisely – ie, help everyone cross the bridge successfully.

It is that simple.

Which means doing something different to the “same old, same old”.

We have to stop looking wistfully backwards and start looking forwards with more insight and enthusiasm. Which is hard of course. Hindsight is 20-20. Foresight is really hard work.

But one simple truth needs to be recognised before we can move forwards at all.

Technology is replacing a lot more jobs than it is creating. And job evaporation is upon us right now…it is not coming next week or next year.

We must shift the educational demands to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) far more quickly than our outdated teaching and training system is currently responding. Creative industry thinking matched to STEM is a far greater job catalyst than STEM alone.

Digital disruption is happening in education. It is happening in government. It is happening in professional services. It is happening everywhere. And we are just not keeping up with its impacts.

The world of work will soon offer only two options – jobs that demand few skills, little thought or job satisfaction and pay barely enough to survive, and jobs that demand key skills, creative and connected thought and pay more than enough to live comfortably.

Two roads to the future…

But no traffic control.

Leave this revolution to market forces as the Federal Government is doing, and we will all live in a jungle.

Manage this revolution with insight (ie leadership) and we can productively benefit from the technologies and competitive forces involved. And cultivate new options and opportunities by adding value to a wide range of productive industries. We are not without resources in this country.

But we have to invest in new infrastructure – physical, human and productive infrastructure.

And provide the options and opportunity for people to take a meaningful place in this new society without blame and shame. If we are collectively responsible for this new economic condition – and we are - then we are collectively responsible for providing a place for all.

And this is no time for Ministers to point a finger and talk about bludgers.

For they are the group that led us into this “brave new world” with little or no thought given to consequences.

The unemployed are unemployed because government had no plan for the future. And that is not the fault of the unemployed.

Crossing the bridge from old world industries to new world industries is currently leaving many people behind. Look at Townsville. Look at Geelong. Look at Tasmania, SA and many other regions across Australia.

Government has two choices. It can continue to ignore these people and ultimately suffer the election losses that such inaction deserves.

Or it can invest in helping people to cross the bridge from the old world to the new.

Many will cross under their own steam. But many more won’t and government will have to pay to support these people anyway with unemployment benefits, ineffective “how to create a CV” courses and other useless endeavours.

Or it can bite the bullet and follow through on Tony Abbot’s ambition to be the “infrastructure Prime Minister”. Of course, he wasn’t, but it was a good idea.

Borrowing is not always bad. Not if the funds borrowed are an intelligent and considered investment in Australia’s productive future. Look at the recent US election. Trump only had to suggest an investment in infrastructure and the markets headed towards the sky.

Our politicians are frightened of their own shadows. Frightened of the ratings agencies. Frightened of the banks. Frightened of their factions.

When the country is crying out for leadership – that mythical animal hiding somewhere in the bathrooms and toilets of “C” suites across the country.

Brave in the bathroom talking to the mirror, but not in the boardroom.

Whilst transitioning between old world industries and new world industries, we need to invest in more real roads, railways, runways, tunnels, bridges and dams in all the places hit hardest by the changing world. And rather than pull funding from the RDA network, with its local input and local ideas…we should increase the funding dramatically to support the regions hit hardest by digital disruption.

The digital revolution connects people into networks. So the more 'real world' connected networks we have, such as the RDAs, the better we can respond to the disruptions that beset us. Collaboratively.

Who’s going to pay? Federal Government. The only entity with pockets deep enough and with a national vision wide enough.

If Federal Government doesn’t spend the money productively in helping people through this transition over the next ten years it will spend it anyway in increased unemployment costs, medical costs, incarceration costs and reeducation costs, not to mention the political costs of not listening to the electorate.

National debt is climbing regardless of whatever the treasurer says or does. The budget is out of control. The budgetary gear lever is not connected to the economic gearbox.

So borrowing money to invest in infrastructure that delivers breathing space, planning space, employment, and real jobs in the places that needs jobs most, plus improving hard infrastructure to support the productive industries we are building at the same time is not a misplaced investment.

And during that time, effort can be directed into the proper training and skills required in supporting our productive industries – not the nonsense 'training' delivered at the moment. We should reinvest heavily in TAFE.

Action has to be related to vision. We have to invest in building a broader and more productive industry base.

And have the courage to do something, not just talk about it till the next election.

It is time for real conviction. To grow up. And wise up.

The expectation of our school children and students, and their parents is still that they will be job seekers rather than job creators.

We have to turn that expectation around in schools and wake parents up to just how much the digital revolution has changed the world of work forever.

The digital revolution takes no prisoners. There are no more jobs for life.

But we can do something about this. We must do something about it.

We can use the leverage of digital collaboration tools and platforms to intelligently transform the working society we live in, creating real jobs with meaning and high value.

One. We have to support startups.

We have begun, but we have to create lots more high value, productive businesses that can afford to employ.

Not just in ICT. But across a broad and diversified set of productive industries - adding value to agriculture, manufacturing, creative industries, education, tourism, design based professional services, METS, clean, green, medical and smart technology businesses and smart trades which will generate exports and high wages that can then pay for the services the government seems so intent on promoting.

These are the industries to focus on.

And we must add value to all these productive industries through a strategic program of design, branding, marketing and advertising. Not just ship dirt, wheat and meat out the door.

Become price setters not price takers.

Two. We have to identify and support the scale-ups (roughly 4-5 percent of our businesses) – the over five-year-old, high growth businesses that generate 50 percent of the new jobs. We must add value to them also through a strategic program of design, branding, marketing and advertising.

We have to create things, grow things, design things, make things, brand things and market goods and services to the world.

And we have to promote and export. Hard.

If the Federal Government is missing in action, that throws the onus back onto us all. But collaboratively we can make a difference.

The Manufacturing Toolbox was created collaboratively to confront the idea promoted by Federal Government Ministers that manufacturing is dead in Australia.

It isn’t. Visit http://manufacturing.digitaltoolbox.org

You will see over 5,000 of Australia’s leading manufacturers and producers on show, with more being added all the time.

The Manufacturing Toolbox now has a sister site – the Agriculture Toolbox http://agriculture.digitaltoolbox.org

And there will soon be more Toolboxes. For more sectors.

Why?

Because we have to showcase our manufacturing, innovation and producer successes not just to people here in Australia, but to potential customers for our products and services overseas.

While we are waiting for the Federal Government to awake, we should all push hard through our business networks and connections, letting the world know more about our manufacturing and productive industry capability.

We will soon launch the Taiwan Australia Trade Showcase. The first of many trade showcases to come.

Why?

So we can showcase Australian manufacturers directly to overseas markets 24x7, 365 days a year.

Undoubtedly, the traditional trade missions, trade shows and international expos are very important. And the major Australian trade agencies have those under control.

But the individual Export Market Trade Showcases are designed to complement standard trade activity with 'shop windows' on Australian manufacturing and other productive industries.

And the more 'shop windows' we have the better.

Each one will be customised to the interests of a different country. And we will keep adding export 'shop windows' until we have one for each major and minor overseas market.

So that Australian businesses can promote and sell more products and services.

So we can help generate more income for Australian businesses.

So they can afford to employ more people in those businesses.

So those workers can afford to pay tax.

So they can afford to pay down debt.

And so we can build a broader and more diversified platform of productive industries to offset our historic reliance on mining.

It’s not rocket science.

What are we waiting for?

*

John Sheridan is CEO of Digital Business insights (DBi), an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia, which focuses on helping businesses and communities adapt to, and flourish in, the new digital world. He is the author of Connecting the Dots and getting more out of the digital revolution. Digital Business insights has been researching and analysing the digital revolution for more than 15 years and has surveyed more than 50,000 businesses, conducting in-depth case study analysis on more than 350 organisations and digital entrepreneurs. Now DBi is turning that research into action through a series of digital business development platforms, the first of which launched in October: the Manufacturing Toolbox. Launched in December is the Agriculture Toolbox.

http://www.db-insights.com/

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By John Sheridan, Manufacturing Toolbox founder >>

REGIONS have to collaborate. Few have the resources to go it alone. And it is an illusion to imagine otherwise.

In this digital revolution, we are all driven individually towards more connection, more collaboration and more integration. It affects what we do, how we do it and it changes our attitude towards others. Power has shifted to the informed customer permanently. And what affects and impacts individuals, impacts the regions they live in.

There is strength in regional collaboration and sharing, Collectively and collaboratively we can achieve far more than we dream of as individuals or single organisations. 

And it is that simple fact that led to the Toolbox project.

It was first sparked by the widely published commentary from Canberra two years ago, that “Manufacturing is dead in Australia and we are now a services economy”. 

That statement, prompted by the final decision on withdrawal by the major carmakers, and followed by problems in supply chain industries, refineries and steel works, stimulated a lot of discussion and debate about the future of manufacturing.

But not everybody agreed that we could or should no longer make things, invent things and export things in Australia.

Dissension flourished on Linkedin, on phone calls and in coffee shops, and lots of successful Australian manufacturers were identified and promoted as examples but only within the manufacturing forums, not with the general public at large.

So the public began to believe that manufacturing had no future.

Which stimulated the question, “How can we show people that Australia’s manufacturing industry may be under stress and transition in some regions, but is alive and well in others?”

So, working with partners, we created the Manufacturing Toolbox focused on the main issues that manufacturing faced – export, management and workforce skills, R&D and collaboration. 

It was a platform built to enable the founding partners – CSIRO, ACS, QMI Solutions, State Library, TIQ, Outsource Institute, RDA Brisbane and others to support and engage with manufacturing industry.

Then a new question arose, “How can we demonstrate to people which Australian manufacturers are still successful? We need a showcase.” John Sheridan.

And we were pointed to the Taiwan Trade portal as an example of how to showcase a nation’s manufacturers to the world, which led to “we can do that”, and that led to the Manufacturing Showcase, which includes 4,500 of Australia’s leading, exporting manufacturers and producers.

And the showcase grows day by day.

Development was collaborative. The way forward was by decided by consensus and partner feedback.

And it led to new things. New comments such as, “If we can showcase Australian manufacturers to the world, then surely we can showcase local manufacturers to our region = buy local.”

To which, the answer was, “yes”.

Or, “Could you showcase all the 21st century solutions for the agricultural sector – the drones, robots, precision agricultural solutions, tags, weighing systems, weather solutions, farm machinery, farm management systems, GIS, crop chemicals etc?”

“Yes.”

“Could you showcase the Australian manufacturers that are of interest to Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, India, UAE, Japan, Thailand, Europe and so on?”

“Yes.”

“What about indigenous artists? Or furniture manufacturers?”

And so on. There are many other suggestions and ideas now in consideration. And the door is open for more.

Not everybody found it easy to visualise and imagine what might be possible, but every time we demonstrated the manufacturing showcase to people … the penny dropped, and “what if,” “what about?” and “could we do this?” became the questions of the day.

And the thing these suggestions have in common is that they are all driven by real world needs, real world suggestions and ideas.

They haven’t come from a policy group in Canberra.

They come from people facing local problems and real issues, frustrated but with a desire to do something about them.

The development has been collaborative. Potential on one side meeting ideas on the other side and generating a new solution and a fresh version of the toolbox.

And it has only just begun. The toolbox has been live for three weeks and it is still developing.

The process is akin to gardening not architecture. A response to whatever pops up that might grow and evolve, not “we’re going to build this in this way” because that is what’s on the plan.

Gardening is a responsive relationship, which continues through the whole life of a garden. Architecture is a responsive relationship at the creation of the plan.

Digital technology provides the option of ongoing, agile responses to human and regional needs as they evolve. It offers the option of collaborative development.

MORE TOOLBOXES OPEN

The Manufacturing Toolbox will now be cloned and configured for other sectors. It is happening now. More toolboxes with more tools.

It will be cloned and configured for regions. It will be configured for issues.

But all versions join up. All platforms can share, if appropriate. Publicly or privately, if desired. All platforms are connected and that connectivity can deliver new value to partners, if that is what is wanted.

So far everybody has wanted what is in common (eg, the showcase, resources, news, events), but also then wanted something specifically for themselves (local services, their own ‘shop windows’, private forums, specific courseware).

That is the intrigue of the project. Where it goes next is anybody’s guess. It depends on who puts their hand up. It depends on which shoot bursts through the soil next, and in which part of the garden.

This is an iterative process. It is holistic. It is fascinating.

The project has been inspired and supported by many individuals – in government, in academia, in not-for-profits, in commerce, in small business, but the sum is greater than the parts. And the project is not subject to whim, elections or changes of government.

It is simply a way of doing more with less.

It is part of a new breed of ‘grass roots’ driven actions, energised by frustration, imagination and unwillingness to wait any longer, bridging divides, silos and departmental walls, and driven by the question “what if?”

Manufacturing in Australia isn’t dead. Nor is any creative or productive industry where individuals can innovate, invent, create and try, try and try again.

There are a lot of tools in the toolbox and there will soon be many more. Each project delivers some value to other projects. Not everybody wants to use all the tools. And now some regions want their own toolboxes.

And a manufacturer can promote their business locally, regionally or overseas. A manufacturer can engage with others, with email news, capability building programs and find help and advice.

Digital technology, leveraging email, content management, learning management, apps and collaboration tools can be used for more than just “my business” or “my region” or “my sector”.

Digital technology can also connect and create opportunities for new relationships and ideas, where 1 + 1 = 11 not just 2.

TURBO-CHARGING REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

That is why this project has been hard for some people to get their heads around. It is a result of joined up thinking. And joined up listening. A result of many ideas. Many seeds, but one garden.

It is open source in many different ways and on many levels, delivering results far beyond the basic tools and technologies applied.

And not everybody is comfortable with that. Collaboration and ‘command and control’ don’t sit together happily in the 21st century, that’s for sure.

But the digital revolution demands shared value, so the choice is clear for most people. But will never be clear for all.

Collaboration is the only effective, affordable, responsible way forwards.

Farmers, the best ones – and that is the majority – have always understood what the miners don’t. Everything is connected and you can’t steal from the farm what you then expect to sustain you for generations to come. Farmers add value to the soil. Year in and year out, or there is no farm. There is a message there.

We should listen harder to what Australian farmers have to teach us.

We are good at team sports in Australia. Always have been. We now need to become good at team economic development.

http://manufacturing.digitaltoolbox.org

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Digital Business insights by John Sheridan >>

BANKS don’t invest in small business any more. They promote credit cards instead. No social contract. Only dividends and shareholders.

They will only lend money with a lien against property, which then makes property even more collectively important as a backstop against financial disaster, and increases the risk for everyone.

We cannot build Australia’s future through investing everything into one non-productive asset class - housing. That just steals investment from scaleups and startups. It steals investment from farmers. It steals investment from manufacturers. It steals investment from small business.

And it pumps up the housing bubble, because there is nowhere else to invest money. Central banks across the world have driven interest rates so low that the traditional investment options of bonds, shares and bank deposits are broken.

Leaving property the only choice.

Which then makes housing permanently unaffordable for young people who actually want to live in their own home. Not just buy and rent out. And the government supports this. 

We are then informed that a candidate for the United States presidency has paid no tax for 18 years. Is that something to be proud of? The act of a genius?

All people and organisations earning money by selling labour, goods, and services should pay tax in the country where the money is earned.

Taxes pay for education, health, defence, social security, welfare, services, roads and infrastructure, social stability and even parliamentary salaries, so what is the problem with paying your way?

Tax avoidance has become a sophisticated industry – supported by the accounting profession – where some who can afford it, rich individuals and companies, do everything they can to avoid paying tax.

Successfully. Which then throws the onus back on the rest of us, and government cuts services to fill the gap. Tax avoidance throws everything out of balance. A disconnect between common sense and pure greed.

The current mess is the result of ineffective response by governments and central banks to the last mess – the GFC.

In the USA where the mess began, only two small players went to prison. In Iceland, one of the smallest countries in the world, 26 bankers went to jail.

Overall, the message sent to the banks in giant neon letters was “business as usual”. But the problem wasn’t fixed. It was just kicked down the road.

Setting up the perfect conditions for the next crisis.

And when you add digital job destruction to a broken financial system, you have not just a perfect storm, but a perfect hurricane.

Because 50 percent of jobs will disappear over the next 20 years. And the banking system that should support business growth … doesn’t.

And in the developed world a job is about more than just money.

For most people a job is about identity and purpose, about finding a meaningful place in society, a place where effort is rewarded by a feeling of accomplishment as well as financial recompense.

So unemployment is a problem that undermines society, identity, self-respect, value, confidence and meaning. Unemployment acts like an illness, sapping strength and motivation.

For we tend to measure value by what we do, not by what we are. “What do you do for a living?” “Where do you work?” “What are your goals and ambitions?” “What have you achieved with your life so far?”

Now whether that is right or wrong, it is what most of us have come to believe … that our value and meaning in society is measured by what we do, how we earn a living, and the contribution we make.

All contributions are ultimately of our life, our time, our energy, our attention, our thoughts, our words and our deeds. We exchange our life for reward of some kind – money, fulfilment, recognition and other symbols of achievement.

That is why work is important. And why lack of work is a problem.

THE REAL UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS

According to the Roy Morgan poll, during August unemployment in Australia was at 10.4 percent nearly double the current ABS figure for July 2016. Which means 1.332 million Australians are currently unemployed.

That’s a lot.

But even worse, in August, 2.249 million Australians were either unemployed or under-employed – 17.5 percent of the workforce. Depending on where you live, regional youth unemployment is 20-40 percent. In some communities second and third generations are unemployed. And the federal government continues to play with statistics whilst doing little to address the underlying problems.

We are creating a major social divide. A city and country divide. A state and territory divide. And a digital divide.

There are not enough jobs, and there is a continuing shift from full time work to contract work, part time work and unemployment.

The result?

Less income. Less spending. Leading to lower personal and business confidence and optimism. And more household debt.

Plus, 86 percent of the jobs created in Australia are now part time. Which means even less security. Less money. Smaller dreams. More frustration. More uncertainty.

In this environment, weak consumer spending is hardly a surprise. And Reserve Bank and budget predictions that households would be the mainstay of economic growth are shown to be the nonsense they obviously were from the beginning.

You can’t get money out of somebody’s pocket if it is not going in.

So, 70 percent of the households in 25 advanced economies saw their earnings drop in the past decade. Households can’t and won’t spend if they have less money. And most know that spending in uncertain times will only take them further into debt. Increasing, fear, uncertainty and doubt. Increasing dissatisfaction with politicians, banks and economists – our so-called leaders.

It all joins up.

It is even argued by minsters, trying to justify the shift from full to part time work, that part time and contract work is a good thing, giving workers more flexibility and choice. Part time work may suit some people. But not most.

THE TRAINING DILEMMA

It is no longer enough to study and expect to get a job at the end of it. Between 2008 and 2014, the proportion of new university graduates in full-time employment dropped from 56.4 percent to 41.7 percent. Yet despite the 20 per cent drop in university graduates finding full-time work, the number of commencing students jumped from just under 20,000 to over 27,000.

Each year, more students enter a narrow-minded, backward looking curriculum funnel, leading to an increasingly foggy destination of no jobs.

Job security as an ideal has evaporated. There is a remorseless shift towards everyone having an ABN. Becoming independent contractors. Part time or freelance. Unemployed.

How do you buy a house if the bank expects you to have a full time job or rich parents?

How do you plan a holiday, a family or a future?

And the big, shiny elephant in the room …

Technology is replacing jobs, not creating them.

The world of work will soon offer only two options – jobs that demand few skills, little thought and pay barely enough to survive, and jobs that demand key skills, creative and connected thought and pay more than enough to live comfortably.

Two roads to the future…

But no traffic control.

Leave this revolution to market forces and we will all live in a jungle. Manage this revolution with insight and we can productively benefit from the technologies and competitive forces involved. And cultivate new options and opportunities by adding value to a wide range of productive industries. We are not without resources in this country.

But we have to invest in infrastructure. Human and productive infrastructure.

And provide the option and opportunity for people to take a meaningful place in this new society without blame and shame. If we are collectively responsible for this new economic condition – and we are - then we are collectively responsible for providing a place for all.

And this is no time for ministers to point a finger and talk about bludgers.

For in reality, they are the bludgers – the ones who accept a significant wage but do nothing useful with it.

They are the group that led us into this “brave new world” with little or no thought given to consequences.

The unemployed are unemployed because government had no plan for the future. And that is not the fault of the unemployed.

The so-called plan for “jobs and growth” was no plan at all. It was just a slogan to put on election banners and provide a one-liner for political interviews. A slogan designed to ignore the implications of casualised labour. And misinterpret the impacts of the digital revolution.

Because there are no jobs and there is no growth. We currently live in a world of contraction not expansion and have to adjust accordingly. Look at the spread of close to zero and negative interest rates across the planet.

And as robotisation, computerisation and automation really takes hold – with 50 percent of jobs disappearing soon, this situation will become much worse.

In the USA after the GFC for every dollar of economic growth 92 cents went to the top 1 percent. Just one family in America, the Walton family, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of American families – which is 46,400,000 families.

The seven members of the “Walmart family” live in large fortified mansions patrolled by security guards and exist in permanent fear of kidnap and extortion.

TWO AUSTRALIAS

We are creating two Australias. One Australia inhabited by the fully employed, and another Australia inhabited by the part time, freelance, occasionally employed and the unemployed.

One Australia with digital skills and flexibility and the other Australia permanently trapped on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Which will inevitably lead to a future Australia with elite suburbs surrounded by big walls, cameras and security guards and another Australia packed full of the frustrated underclass, nurturing resentment, suicide or revenge.

Do we really want to go there? We will never have enough police or prisons.

This is not another normal cyclic change we are facing. It’s a revolution. A tectonic shift in our society that governments are not thinking enough about.

Because most of those disappearing jobs are low skilled jobs – or admin jobs – and it is easy to say that people will have to retrain or re-skill or study again, but the reality is that the “new” jobs require new skills and attitudes.

But “they are only admin jobs” I hear constantly, but admin jobs provide the investment in thinking time for the managers and directors in all organisations. Strip them out, as we are doing and managers are overwhelmed with no time to plan and think. Which explains a lot about our current condition.

And there aren’t enough “new” jobs to replace the old jobs anyway.

There are now only 38 jobs for every 100 people looking for work.

Only 12 percent of jobseekers going through the “work for the dole program” have found full time work three months after the program. Program fail.

The traditional skills of “hand”, “eye” and “brain”  now all demand “brain”.

And even the “brain” jobs won’t deliver protection from digital disruption.

For automation is now poking its digital fingers into law firms, hospitals, schools, accountants, engineering, government, universities and mid tier administration in corporations. A large proportion of the current work ”force” will very soon become the permanently work ”enfeebled”.

Who will look after their interests? Not the unions, because these are not traditional workers. Not the business associations or chambers of commerce, because they are not businesses either.

The self-employed and occasionally employed are trapped in the ever widening, policy gap between government, unions and business organisations, with no organisation looking out for their future.

They are part of an ever-growing host of people swept to one side by the currents of digital change, and the shortsightedness of policy makers.

Half the working or non-working population, whichever way you want to look at it. Half the voting population.

Will ministers still find it so easy to blame the digitally demoralised then?

MEANING, NOT DE-MEANING

The equation is simple. If people don’t fit in meaningfully then there will be another revolution following hard on the heels of the digital revolution, with just as much impact but involving less whiz and more bang. Not what we want.

We can’t allow this gigantic transition to happen by accident, as it is at the moment, driven by remorseless digital change, plant closures, layoffs and redundancies, drifting towards the iceberg of “big trouble” with no captain awake on the bridge.

At this stage we can do something about that, if we consider it carefully.

The expectation of our school children and students, and their parents is still that they will be job seekers rather than job creators.

We have to turn that expectation around in schools and wake parents up to just how much the digital revolution has changed the world of work forever.

In the last 25 years, the number of secretarial jobs in Australia has dropped by half a million. The number of labourers has dropped by 400,000. The number of technicians and tradies has dropped by 250,000. And the number of machinery operators has dropped by 100,000.

“My son the lawyer, my daughter the doctor, my granddaughter the professor, my grandson the bank manager”… dream on.

We are now seeing jobs disappearing in professional services, academia, corporations, councils and the not-for-profit sector.

The digital revolution takes no prisoners. There are no more jobs for life.

But we can do something about this. We can use the leverage of digital collaboration tools and platforms to transform the working society we live in, creating real jobs with meaning and high value.

DIGITAL ONE-TWO-THREE

One. We have to support startups.

We have begun, but we have to create lots more high value, productive businesses that can afford to employ.

Not just in ICT. But across a diversified set of productive industries - adding value to agriculture, manufacturing, creative industries, education, tourism, design based professional services, clean, green, medical and smart technology businesses and smart trades which will generate exports and high wages that can then pay for the services the government seems so intent on promoting.

We must add value through a strategic program of design, branding, marketing and advertising. Not just ship dirt, wheat and meat out the door. Become price setters not price takers.

Two. We have to identify and support the scale-ups – the over five-year-old, high growth businesses that generate 50 percent of the new jobs. We must add value to them also through a strategic program of design, branding, marketing and advertising.

The growing, emerging Asian middle class represents increased opportunity for us in Australia. Because it generates a greater demand for protein, clean food, green food, education and prestige goods. Which is why we have to create things, grow things, design things, make things, brand things and market goods and services to the world. Export.

Three. STEAM not STEM.

Art + Science = Higher Value. STEAM can generate unique solutions to problems that robots can’t match or make. Collaboration between design and creative skills, and engineering and science is where both tangible and intangible value can be optimised to create high value businesses.

Introduce more designers and creatives to engineers. Foster cross silo discussion. Orchestrate serendipity. Bring advertising agencies into the policy arena. Pay them. Apply the “strategy + creative” system advertising agencies have used successfully for a hundred years to solve policy problems.

We have to encourage and train our schoolchildren and university students to be curious and creative. To take initiative, problem solve, stimulate an appetite for entrepreneurship – “I will start my own business”.  In the US, 20 percent of students in entrepreneurship programs went on to start their own business – five times the general population.

Set them the biggest problems. “How do we stop wars?” “How do we end hunger?” “How do we clean up the oceans?” How do we eliminate poverty?”

Full STEAM ahead.

And if we can produce students with curiosity and imagination, creative team solving ability, collaboration skills, analytic and critical thinking, initiative and entrepreneurialism and get them creating things, growing things, designing things, making things, branding things and marketing things to the world, then we will be fine.

Four. We have to create meaningful options for those who will never work traditionally again. It is time to consider universal basic income seriously.

Pay everybody enough to live on and abolish the bureaucracy of the welfare state and the cost of administering it. Not a new idea. Richard Nixon, Milton Friedman and Martin Luther King all suggested it in the past.

Real-world experiments in Canada and the US in the late 1960s, along with studies in India and Brazil, found little evidence of widespread work discouragement from a minimum income. If anything, these studies found positive impacts. Participants in the Canadian study went to hospital less frequently and were more likely to finish high school.

A minimum income paid to citizens in India actually helped them to secure work, by providing stability and access to childcare and transport.

After the Great Depression, Rossevelt responded with a “new deal” reforming banking, creating emergency relief programs, work relief and agricultural programs putting people to work on construction projects, forestry and building roads, bridges and dams. We can do the same.

But we can’t treat the people who will never work traditionally again as bludgers. The digital revolution is not their fault.

So we have to create real world, community-building projects, comprised of useful and meaningful activities and options in our societies not condemn people to a meaningless life of dog walking, grass cutting and gardening.

We have to be equally creative in solving the “never work again” problem as creating new work and jobs.

And we can’t afford to wait for the next depression, GFC or burst bubble. We need to act now, with start-ups, scale-ups, entrepreneurship and social work options.

It’s October already. Let’s get the show on the road.

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John Sheridan is CEO of Digital Business insights, an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia, which focuses on helping businesses and communities adapt to, and flourish in, the new digital world. He is the author of Connecting the Dots and getting more out of the digital revolution. Digital Business insights has been researching and analysing the digital revolution for more than 15 years and has surveyed more than 50,000 businesses, conducting in-depth case study analysis on more than 350 organisations and digital entrepreneurs. Now DBi is turning that research into action through a series of digital business development platforms, the first of which launched this month: the Manufacturing Toolbox.

http://www.db-insights.com/

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Digital Business insights by John Sheridan >>

ONE THING I have noticed over years of looking at digital strategies and regional economic development strategies is that they are all the same.

Change the name and the pictures and a few words, and bingo – another strategy saying exactly the same as the last one.

Sometimes they ARE exactly the same as the last one – the consultancy involved failing to change all the locational names properly when delivering the cookie cutter report to the next government customer. 

So why do councils pay large amounts for strategies they could create themselves?

Is it laziness? Or fear? Lack of confidence? Stamp of approval?

Why not download the digital or economic strategy from another region and just change the names. It would be cheaper and the outcomes will be the same. 

I noticed this first about 10 years ago. There was a common structure to all the economic development strategies that I read. Nothing has changed.

The first section was full of research, the information that defined the uniqueness of the region. The next section was full of reviews of what was changing, how the region compared with others, and what the future trends seemed to suggest. These sections were where all the hard analysis and thinking were being done.

The last section was where the cookie cutter came into action – future plans, the strategy for action and investment. This section was where hard analysis and thinking and uniqueness went out the window. Because this section required imagination and creativity which traditional planners are not trained to deliver.

So they fall back on platitudes and generalities often plundered from other economic development strategies from around the world. And the uniqueness of the region flies out the window with the rest of it.

What was intriguing to me as I reviewed strategy after strategy was that when it came to objectives, there was universal agreement.

They were always “We want things to be better”. Which is hard to argue with.

More jobs, more social amenities, more tourism, more large businesses moving into the area, more housing, better roads, better aged care, better schooling and so on.

We want to be leaders in…(insert an issue here).

You name it and put it in. That is what most economic development departments do. But there is never much detail on how all these things are going to be achieved … just a long list of wishes and dreams wrapped up in a professionally designed brochure, which the Mayor can be proud of. 

Because thinking about the future is tough stuff.

Looking back is easy. Even pulling together all the statistics, tables and charts is achievable given enough time.

Looking forwards is very hard. And invariably wrong. Especially today with so many externalities shifting the solid ground we used to rely on. 

Creating new solutions to old problems is even harder. It requires a different mindset.

And the two mindsets of deep analysis and insightful creativity rarely go together. That is why advertising creatives who have to do this to a brief, day after day are paid such large amounts of money and always have been. 

Limited supply. And lots of burn out because of the stress.

And you won’t find these creative people in economic planning departments, or government or even large planning companies. Can’t afford them. And couldn’t attract them anyway.

Hence the cookie cutter approach to regional, digital and economic strategy.

Which is a problem for us all.

We actually need fresh creative thinking on regional, digital and economic strategy now like never before.

Because the world is changing swiftly and radically around us as a result of the digital revolution in a way that is largely invisible to most people.

And I hear all the time people saying, “Yes, I understand that – digital disruption isn’t it?” when in fact they don’t.

Because if they did…there would be more evidence.

There would be evidence in their strategies. There would be evidence in their actions. There would be evidence in the surety of direction.

But the evidence is largely in inactions, and “waiting to see”, and looking everywhere around the world for some sort of clue as to “what should we do?”

In the old days, cities had walls and when danger threatened, the drawbridge would go up, the gates would be shut, the soldiers would line the ramparts and the citizens would get ready for a siege.

The citizens and their leaders would hope they had enough water and food to wait out the invader. The strategy was “wait and see”.

Close the gates and agility, vision and mobility disappear for a while. In some cases this strategy worked well, but over many years invaders learned, and brought with them the tools – siege engines, cannons and mortars to defeat the people with “siege mentality” and walled cities fell out of favour.

Today we are seeing the same phenomenon repeated in response to the digital invader.

Walled cities. And the siege mentality that goes with it.

Once again we have surrendered maneuverability, agility, vision and responsibility (our ability to respond).

These are all useful attributes of the digital revolution. And we need them all. 

The three major powerful currents of digital change – more connection, more collaboration and more integration are disruptive, provocative and remorseless.

They cannot be stopped. 

They cannot be avoided.

Inaction is not a viable option. Nor is failure to recognise that walls don’t work any more.

Here is our digital strategy.

It is the digital strategy for my corporation, for Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, for Gold Coast, for Sydney, for Queensland, for NSW. For anywhere and everyone.

And it is meaningless. Because the drivers for digital change are not constrained by the borders or boundaries of any city. And the citizens who live there – the individuals, the businesses and the not-for-profits are not constrained either.

Where is the knowledge economy? Where is the digital economy?

It is not in a place. It is in cyberspace.

Where are the borders? Where are the boundaries? Where are the walls? Where are the gates?

They exist only in the attitudes, the siloed thinking, and limited understanding of CEOs and decision makers who have not yet woken up to the real implications of this ongoing digital change. It needs joined up thinking.

It isn’t something that was dealt with last year and now we can shift the focus to innovation. Or jobs.

“We’ve done digital, now we are doing innovation”. I have heard that as well.

Guess what? You haven’t done digital or innovation or jobs. It all joins up.

“We will be the smartest city in the world”. We will attract the smartest individuals, smartest businesses and large corporates to our city.”

Dream on. 

Every city will be the smartest city. Every obvious technological possibility will be milked by everybody … at slightly different speeds, but by everybody.

And in many cases the followers will become leaders, milking the technological possibilities more quickly because they carry no baggage and leapfrog the smug.

The real strengths of any region are what they have always been.

Its industries. Its people. The climate. Water. Culture. Access to the ports and airports. The interesting things to see and do.

Technology does not bestow unique advantage, but it can magnify and catalyse advantages that already exist.

That which is common to all is not a strength. But that which is unique could be. 

The fundamentals haven’t changed. Technology is just an enabler. But a powerful and disruptive one like nothing we have ever seen before.

So cities, regions and states have to accept something has changed forever.

There are no edges any more (the city boundaries and city walls). The influence of geography is diminished. The power of the media is fragmented. Information is instantly accessible. The customer is informed and empowered.

That is confronting for political leaders – Mayors, Premiers, Prime Ministers – because their relevance is threatened. 

But the digital revolution is much more than a threat, it is a promise, because these 19th century roles are steadily and remorselessly becoming less relevant.

It is no accident that politicians are nearly rock bottom when it comes to trust, along with insurance salespeople, real estate agents and talkback radio hosts.

In a digital environment where any statement or commentary is checkable and discussible … honesty and authenticity is mandatory. 

So strategies of all kinds – social, political, economic, environmental and digital  have to align with the new reality to be useful and have to be rewritten to recognise the reality of the change.

'Maginot Line' thinking is a waste of time and money. Google 'Maginot Line' if you don’t understand the reference. 

Connected. Collaborative. Integrated. There is a lot in these three words.

There are 55 RDA [Regional Development Australia] regions in Australia. Which is arguably as good a way as any to divide Australia.

Integrated regional strategies, not city or council strategies should be the first step. And not isolated regional strategies…but interconnected – vertically and horizontally. With the ultimate outcome being one interconnected, Australian strategy for every aspect of what we do. Joined up thinking.

Now, that is a step too far for our 19th century planners and policy officers at this time. It shouldn’t be … but it is. 

Because we are still tied to outdated thinking that makes that practically impossible. “How would we do it?” “Who would do it?” “Who would pay?” “Who would decide to do it?” “Which minister would own it?”

But guess what? There are lots of examples of individuals and groups in Australia working on “joined up thinking” out of frustration with the obvious lack of big picture vision at the top, on many positive initiatives, using the internet to network and collaborate.

And if the digital revolution continues (ie no nuclear wars) we will all have to walk in this direction anyway. The digital revolution demands it.

19th century thinking in a 21st century digital revolution is where we mostly live today.

Like it or not, we have to start thinking in a different way.

That means collaboration and that means shared value – Google 'Professor Porter' on this.

In many ways it doesn’t matter what entities we use as the basis for collaboration. We can use those that already exist – councils, states and territories, corporates and individuals.

What does matter is the required “joined up” thinking and vision, and as a result the “joined up” strategies to reach the “joined up" goals. 

We have to still do local. But we have to think global. Both at the same time.

Connected and collaborative strategies should recognise and incorporate the existing unique characteristics of a region, but all “future” plans and actions should be aligned with the characteristics of a “joined up” world.

These connected, integrated and collaborative realities must become second nature to our reinvented economic development thinkers. Are they up to it?

Cost sharing and value sharing are key parts of the methodology. Not easy. Who pays? Who profits? But even this can be worked out and agreed. If we can go to the moon in 1969, we can work out how to collaborate in 2016.

We are all heroes in the digital revolution. We have to be a 21st century team of collaborative but independent thinkers. Joined up thinkers.

Only by pushing personal or party glory into the background can consideration be given to greater good, longer-term plans and possibilities. We used to call that vision and it has been missing for a while.

So our focus has to shift towards shared value collaboration so we can all benefit in our much bigger competition with the rest of the world. In the digital revolution no man is an island and no island is an island either, no matter how big it is.

If there are no existing mechanisms for effective collaboration we have to invent them and quickly. COAG, councils of Mayors, RDA network, whatever grouping is most useful … need to evolve swiftly into real platforms for action.

The digital revolution takes no prisoners.

And the countries that move fastest to reorganise will be the winners.

 

John Sheridan is CEO of Digital Business insights, an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia, which focuses on helping businesses and communities adapt to, and flourish in, the new digital world. He is the author of Connecting the Dots and getting more out of the digital revolution. Digital Business insights has been researching and analysing the digital revolution for more than 15 years and has surveyed more than 50,000 businesses, conducting in-depth case study analysis on more than 350 organisations and digital entrepreneurs. Now DBi is turning that research into action through a series of digital business development platforms, the first of which launched this month: the Manufacturing Toolbox.

http://www.db-insights.com/

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