John Eales

Bring­ing in­no­va­tion back home

The Australian - The Deal - - Front Page - John Eales

THERE’S a lot of dis­cus­sion at the mo­ment about in­no­va­tion. It’s on Mal­colm Turn­bull’s agenda as he launches his in­no­va­tion strat­egy and seeks to ad­vance Aus­tralia fair through toil­ing our grey mat­ter rather than just re­ly­ing on our golden soil.

It’s al­ways on the agenda for busi­ness, as com­pa­nies search for the new and best prod­ucts, ser­vices and means of de­liv­ery to sep­a­rate them­selves from the mar­ket­place. And it should also be on your per­sonal agenda. Turn­bull’s govern­ment, through his $1.1 bil­lion “wel­come to the ideas boom” ini­tia­tive, is cul­ti­vat­ing an en­vi­ron­ment for in­no­va­tion by driv­ing re­search, back­ing ideas and en­cour­ag­ing risk-tak­ing.

Suc­cess will partly de­pend on whether the pro­gram is di­rected and man­aged by those who have ac­tu­ally in­no­vated. For that to hap­pen it should in­clude pri­vate sec­tor over­sight as it is pri­vate en­ter­prise, much more than govern­ment, which fully un­der­stands the fun­da­men­tals of how in­no­va­tion works at scale.

Peter Far­rell, one of Aus­tralia’s most suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs and founder of ResMed, a leader in the busi­ness of sleep ap­noea, is adamant in­no­va­tion won’t hap­pen with­out fund­ing and guid­ance, and fur­ther, is not truly in­no­va­tion un­less it’s been com­mer­cialised. ResMed, a start-up which now has rev­enues of $2.7 bil­lion and a mar­ket cap of close to $12 bil­lion, has in­no­va­tion in its DNA.

“In­no­va­tion can only be said to have oc­curred when some­one pays for the prod­uct or idea by writ­ing you a cheque,” says Far­rell. “If there’s no cheque there is no in­no­va­tion. It might be cre­ative or imag­i­na­tive but if there is no sale, in­no­va­tion has not oc­curred.”

But in­no­va­tion is not solely the do­main of en­trepreneurs or global cor­po­ra­tions with a big bud­get. It can be just as rel­e­vant to each of us on a more prac­ti­cal, day-to-day, scale. At its sim­plest, in­no­va­tion is about do­ing things dif­fer­ently, and in­no­vat­ing our own lives can be one of the most prac­ti­cal in­no­va­tions we at­tempt.

Self-in­no­va­tion sig­ni­fies a need to change, some­thing we hu­mans are not gen­er­ally keen on, and it of­ten sits as the big­gest im­ped­i­ment to­wards self-im­prove­ment. Im­por­tantly, this drive is not about self-im­por­tance and mak­ing com­par­isons be­tween your­self and oth­ers. Rather, it is about com­par­ing your­self to your­self. Ernest Hem­ing­way may have summed it up best when he said, “There is noth­ing noble in be­ing su­pe­rior to your fel­low man; true no­bil­ity is be­ing su­pe­rior to your for­mer self.”

I like to check in on five key spa­ces in my life: my health, ca­reer, wealth, re­la­tion­ships and my soul. As life is more a blur around the edges rather than well-de­fined boxes, each of th­ese five feed off each other, pos­i­tively and neg­a­tively af­fect­ing us and those clos­est.

In each of th­ese five ar­eas I like to have a gen­eral theme for the year, one or two fac­tors which sup­port that theme, and a gen­uine track­ing mech­a­nism to mon­i­tor my progress.

For ex­am­ple, with health, I keep it sim­ple and tar­get eat­ing a good break­fast. I try not to snack on rub­bish be­tween meals, and aim to move three or four times a week with a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on back health. The track­ing mech­a­nism can be as sim­ple as the notch on my belt and the num­ber of ses­sions I do in the month and year.

It is also valu­able to have a guardian an­gel – an ex­pert or con­fi­dant who can ad­vise and en­cour­age you to stay the course.

One area peo­ple of­ten ig­nore is their soul. Soul can mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. For some it might be re­li­gion; for oth­ers a con­nec­tion with na­ture, or play­ing a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment.

Mur­ray Mexted, the hard-nosed All Black num­ber eight of the 70s and 80s once said to me that ev­ery­one needs a cre­ative out­let, be­cause it’s your cre­ative out­let that al­lows you to take pain in other ar­eas of your life. That’s the re­plen­ish­ing role of your soul.

The lesser known se­cond verse of Ad­vance Aus­tralia Fair calls for Aus­tralians to toil with their “hearts and hands”. For true in­no­va­tion of self, and if our coun­try and busi­nesses are to reap the ben­e­fits of Turn­bull’s ini­tia­tive, busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als alike must en­gage their minds, as well as their hearts and hands, for us all to in­no­vate to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture.

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