Innovation Down Under

02 Apr 2006|Darrel Rhea

It’s been a few years since I was last in Sydney, so my experience here is as if through new eyes. What I am seeing this week is that Australians are a very straight-forward lot – sort of a combination of Brit and Pioneer. It’s refreshing.

The Pioneer aspect makes itself apparent in many unexpected ways, not the least of which is innovative programs developed by the government, as unexpected as that sounds. Rarely do we think of government as a source of enlightened design thinking.

One example is the change program by the ATO (Australian Tax Office), initiated five years ago (with some involvement by 2nd Road and Cheskin) and which is expected to “launch” in about a month and a half.

According to our friends at the ATO, this program is meant to increase compliance by making the process of paying taxes “Easier, Cheaper, More Personalized” (aka ECMP). Their three-year, $500 million investment in re-engineering the tax system will ostensibly get rid of legacy systems and create specific ways for the tax office to better serve its clients, whether individuals, businesses or agents. They expect to make communications more timely, make help more immediately accessible and make the tax law more transparent. I’m hoping that the IRS is paying attention.

Another demonstration of Australian pioneering is that, according to The Australian, the government just released the world’s first “national knowledge standard” to help organizations compete in the global market. Recognizing that knowledge of individuals and businesses is as valuable as physical assets and therefore a key driver of national prosperity, this guide (“AS 5037-2005 Knowledge Management – A Guide”) is said to have practical applications for fostering Innovation, managing risk, leveraging new technologies, improving information flow and other aspects of successful business development.

This guide was actually first published in 2003 after four years of work in defining the standards, and updated in 2005. Australian businesses can purchase and download a PDF or purchase a hardcopy for around $125. I haven’t yet seen a copy, but the concept is interesting if not misguided. (What’s behind that comment is grist for another blog: creating a global manual for innovation is science fiction at best.)

Now, to the nitty-gritty pioneering approach: the government declared that it would put off Australia’s Fall Daylight Savings for a week because of the Commonwealth Games! Though the games are now over, changing time by an hour would have caused a lot of confusion and disappointed sports fans …so they just delayed it! Now that’s a government that really gets what’s important to its constituents.

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