Innovating How we Innovate – The Why

innovation  avanzi.orgRecently I read an article in Adelaide’s daily online “Newspaper” InDaily about Innovating South Australia’s Future which on one hand enthused me as a proponent of the urgent need for Innovation here and on the other disappointed me because we are still missing the mark in many ways.

With South Australia’s economy under pressure due to past reliance on manufacturing. mining etc and as such climbing jobless its great that much is being done.

But clearly more needs to done to develop an environment that foster, support and invest in emerging start-ups that WILL make a significant economic contribution.

The InDaily story is based upon a submission by Regional Development Australia Adelaide (RDAA) and Adelaide City Council to the Australian Technologies Competition.

“The submission details the expertise and resources that exist in South Australia and the extensive collaboration that is occurring on a daily basis in Adelaide between entrepreneurial individuals, companies, councils, universities and the different levels of government.” – In Daily – Vanguard

“Greater Adelaide has a very rich ecosystem of support for new ventures,” the submission says.

While its great that clearly Adelaide has the will to really DO something And YES  – getting the right ecosystem is the key – it seems the activity is in many ways isolated from the Community at Large

But I have two major issues –

As someone who has a real focus on Innovation via my business enovAsia and the Not For profit Group we founded Innovation In The City I did not know the full extent of the EcoSystem …. as such how would the average person have any idea of it as being so comprehensive.

  • 109 programs specifically supporting entrepreneurs and new ventures,
  • 11 incubators and accelerator programs,
  • 9 entrepreneurship education award programs,
  • 17 industry driven education programs for entrepreneurs, and
  • 14 co-working spaces.

If we are to foster and fully support Innovation we must reach the broader community to engage their support not keep “preaching to the choir” with more and more programs. And Innovation needs to be encouraged in existing businesses not just focussed on the startUp community.  There is a need for more integration between new and established business for sustainable success.

The second point that became evident is that we are not focussing on two things I think are fundamental to making SA not only a renowned Innovation Hub but one that makes a major contribution to the future of the State of South Australia. To do this we need to Identify StartUps/Innovations which:

  • Further develop what we already have here in terms of expertise, industries, environment etc (e.g. Food and Wine, Education, Medical research) not just support anyone with a good idea for the nest big thing.  But we also must support people working with the trends that will define the future of SA,


  • Become High Growth Businesses that employ people/bring revenue into SA for the long term.
    • High-growth enterprises, as measured by employment (or by turnover), are enterprises with average annualised growth in employees (or in turnover) greater than 20% a year, over a three-year period, and with ten or more employees at the beginning of the observation period – OECD 

When I shared my thoughts with a colleague in the UK, Harold Sharples, who is a world renowned specialist Innovation Consultant, he agreed with my thinking and referred me to a very recently released report The Global StartUp Ecosystem Ranking 2015.  Harold has taught Innovation to many people and companies around the world including IBM and Coke and including current Apple CEO Tim Cook when he was at IBM.

From this report and subsequent discussions it became evident that while Adelaide is on the right path there may well be a better one to achieve the economic benefits we are aiming for here.

Clearly if we keep building the same ol’ ecosystem,  we’ll just keep getting the same ol’ results …

In Harold’s words,  “it’ll still take 2,000 startups to get one High Growth business”.  This is based upon solid research done over many years.

The key is “innovating how we innovate” … making genuine innovations – in the ecosystem as well as in businesses and technology – and without it,  we won’t get that 10x change which is what we need.

In the report on Global EcoSystems “there’s some great research stuff at the beginning,”  but it ends up with the usual reheated stuff about better ecosystems to match funding with ideas  … Not better better ecosystems that innovate how we innovate.   In other words,  they still envisage a 1 in 2,000 future … at the moment,  their ‘big idea’ is to figure out ways to fail faster and lose less (and promote cities to do it in – and in Oz, only Sydney gets onto their radar!.

The report highlights that we are now at the Tipping Point in the transition from the Industrial Era to the Information Era .

More than ever before,  INNOVATION will be the key to success – in most endeavours – and in most fields.

I agree totally with Harold’s words below and in my next posts – Innovating How we Innovate – The What   and Innovating How we Innovate – The How  I will outline the approach we plan to take in Adelaide starting now.

“So far,  the ‘new era’ they refer to represents the posing of a new need/problem-statement —>  As of today,  we’re still in the old era … but we’ve come upon a new set of challenges that can’t be solved with the same level of thinking we’ve used to discover them —> We won’t actually be in the new era until we have a new solution AND APPLY IT.

Innovating how we innovate is what the solution will look like. 

Actually ACHIEVING that is how we ENTER the new era.   (The dawn of the agricultural / Industrial revolution didn’t occur until we’d FOUND and applied the solutions … there’s no cigar for discovering a new set of problems)

The principles embedded in my solution hypotheses for both IBM and for Business (re)invention generally can be applied to almost any field of endeavour:

From Ice Skating to Dance;  from Business building to Cuisine;  from design to ecosystems.” – Harold Sharples

Clearly there needs to be a better way so What Next?

From JNA to Eternity – 40 Years of constant change – The Birth

PunchCards were the original means of loading programs and data to the Computer …well before keyboards on dumb terminals or PCs

The story begins in the late 70s a time when change in the world was about to really accelerate.

The PC and the Fax Machine had not yet been invented … a geek called Bill Gates had just started Microsoft, Computers were called Mainframes they cost a million dollars and occupied large rooms with sophisticated air-conditioning and fire proofing.

Data was stored on large 64 kb disks and input using 80 Column punch cards.

And then IBM introduced their System/3 family of smaller computers which used 96 column punch cards

Then along came John Neller at a time when large companies outsourced Payroll calculation, reporting and management to Bureaus such as TNT and Mayne Nickless….  who were in that business because they also transported the cash in the form of pay envelopes. Continue reading From JNA to Eternity – 40 Years of constant change – The Birth

Want to be an Entrepreneur? – Find an Unmet need at a time when there is a unique opportunity available to you.

neller_logoIn the late 60s John Neller was a mild manner Accountant at the Bank of Adelaide with a keen interest in Fixed Asset Accounting. As such he was acutely aware that much of the approach to Fixed Asset Accounting was quite different to the practices in other parts of the world.

But he was unaware that the opportunity would arise for him to create a company that played a very significant part in the development of the Australian computer software industry – Neller Software

In fact he saw an unmet need in computerised accounting systems becoming available at the time as they were not designed to meet the specific needs of Australia. But in those days software was bundled with hardware and was built to meet major e.g. USA market needs.

So the choice was clear create your own or go along with what the market offered which was not easy to  modify

But when IBM, who were are the time the main supplier of hardware and software for big business adopted a new marketing policy in 1969 John saw the opportunity to capitalise on this unmet need in the Australian market .

“Until this time customers did not pay for software or services separately from the very high price for leasing the hardware. Software was provided at no additional charge, generally in source code form; services (systems engineering, education and training, system installation) were provided free of charge at the discretion of the IBM Branch office. This practice existed throughout the industry. Quoting from the abstract to a widely read IEEE paper on the topic:

“ Many people believe that one pivotal event in the growth of the business software products market was IBM’s decision, in 1969, to price its software and services separately from its hardware. ”

Continue reading Want to be an Entrepreneur? – Find an Unmet need at a time when there is a unique opportunity available to you.

Want to be an Entrepreneur? – First find a customer and make a sale!

similar to the machine used at Chrysler Aust in the 70s
IBM Maniframe – System 360 – similar to the machine used at Chrysler Aust in the 70s

In the late 70s I was a very young up and coming Analyst/Programmer in the DP Department at Chrysler Australia. Among the 3 systems I had some responsibility for was payroll…. an archaic in house developed system written in COBOL which ran on what was at the time a million dollar computer an IBM Mainframe … a System 360 Model 40.

One day my boss came to me to tell me he had been invited to attend a seminar at John Neller and Associates along with some other big name companies that used IBM Mainframes (inc Bank of NSW (now Westpac), SAGASCO ( now Envestra) ES &A Bank (now defunct)) to look at developing a computerised Payroll packaged system to meet the specific needs of Australia. Continue reading Want to be an Entrepreneur? – First find a customer and make a sale!

What do Apple Macs and IBM Mainframes have in common …… Everything!

IBM System 360 Model 40 - 1970

After 40 years in and around the IT industry I recently made the made  the move to an Apple Mac …. and I love it.   Why? Because it’s simple, easy to use and it works with no hassles!!!

The second best Personal Computer I have ever had was an IBM PC (varying models  through the 80s and mid 90s). Having worked for most of my IT career for IBM specific software developers (eg McCormack and Dodge/Dun and Bradstreet Software), major IBM users (eg Chrysler, Mitsubishi) and/ or IBM Value Added resellers and business partners (eg Neller Software) I was somewhat biased towards IBM!

The first computer I worked with was an IBM System 360 Model 40 – a mainframe that filled a room and required special flooring, sealed room etc and had as much grunt as the mobile phone I had 10 years ago!! It rarely broke down but when it did an IBM Engineer was on the spot within the hour (he even had his own small office in the computer room) and he was backed by an escalation procedure that saw an “expert” from the development lab, on a plane from the US if the problem was not resolved in 24 hours.

It ran an operating system designed for the hardware or was it vice versa… and while slow it was very reliable.

Likewise the IBM PC was not the sexiest on the market (although I think the IBM Thinkpad I had in the late eighties was as good as any PC I ever saw) but it was solid and reliable plus it was backed by a great warranty program!!

The IBM PC was also designed specifically for the operating system.   Then along came the clones … which set out to be cheaper and in some cases matched IBM for reliability etc.  But over time the picture became fuzzy – how do we know what hardware works best with what Chipset and what version of Windows … we dont.  So we take a punt based on what we hear and sometimes we get it right.

And then there is an alternative …. which most in the Corp world (weaned on IBM and mainstream computing) disregarded as something for boffins, graphic artists, uni grads (who got them cheap) and anti IBM/Microsoft zealots.

But that’s changed dramatically— some recent surveys show that a very high percentage of senior execs in major US Corps are using MAC for one reason… they are reliable and easy to use!!

Why is this and what does it have to do with IBM mainframes …. well it seems to me it might have something to do with the fact that MACs run an operating system designed for the hardware … or maybe Apple develop operating systems to suit the hardware … or maybe it’s both. Just like IBM used to do!!

But at the end of the day they deliver what most of us want … simplicity combined with effectiveness and efficiency …..  and if you still hanker for a Windows fix the MAC runs Windows as well side by side with the proprietary MAC OS Operating system…. so you can’t lose!!