11 December 2015

Cultural change and Innovation

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Steve Vamos has seen it all. He’s been Managing Director for Microsoft Australia and Apple Computer Asia Pacific, Chief Executive Officer of ninemsn and is currently a Non-executive Director of Telstra and Chairman of Australian start-up (and now New York based), Reading Room Inc.

As a leader, Mr Vamos has been at the forefront of innovation, witnessing first-hand the rapid change in both the Information Technology and on line Media industry over the past 30 years.

In a recent interview with InnovationAus.com – Steve Vamos on Cultural Change, September 8 2015 – Mr Vamos discussed innovation and start-ups, highlighting the fact that “no part of the Australian economy can afford to be an island.”

In light of the Turnbull Government’s Innovation Statement, released in December 2015, the Prime Minister announced the Government has ear-marked almost $1.1 billion over the next four year to promote business-based research, development and innovation.

While much has been written about the tax and capital gains exemptions for early stage investors in start-up businesses, the need for a change to Australia’s business culture to really capitalise on the Prime Minister’s “idea’s boom,” must be addressed to ensure its long term success.

In his article with InnovationAus.com, Mr Vamos highlighted the fact that technology does not drive innovation or efficiencies or productivity: People do. Explaining how Silicon Valley has become the great technology innovation centre, Mr Vamos said:

“The greatest secret of Silicon Valley, is its at-scale networks of very smart, motivated people deeply connected across institutions, across disciplines, and across companies. The great innovation centres of the world through history have shared these traits.”

“We have a fragmentation in our system that we can’t afford as a small economy,” Mr Vamos said in comparison to the way Australian businesses operate. “There is no part of the Australian economy that can afford to be an island,” he says, referring to universities, research institutions, corporates, government departments and other silos in the Australian economy.

The experiences of Mr Vamos tie in well with the Prime Ministers vision of the future of the next big boom to the Australian economy.

“Our innovation agenda is going to help create the modern, dynamic 21st century economy Australia needs,” the Prime Minister said at the Innovation Statement launch at the CSIRO in Canberra. “Unlike a mining boom, it is a boom that can continue forever, it is limited only by our imagination, and I know that Australians believe in themselves, I know that we are a creative and imaginative nation.”

While the Idea’s Boom focuses on new and emerging industries, corporate Australia has much it can learn and implement from innovation centres around the world. For all the ideas and creativity, Australian businesses need to adopt a cultural change, moving away from the “control-centric,” models of previous generations, to one that is more caring and connecting, more adaptive and innovative in not only how it does business but in how it employs and rewards its staff.

“If we want to improve our workplaces, we need to look at it as a campaign to change how we communicate,” Mr Vamos said at the Creative Innovation Conference in Melbourne in December 2014. “With simple terms, we can change behaviour. People need to understand why, and they need to be involved. “

Mr Vamos will be delivering the opening Keynote at Akolade’s upcoming Remuneration and Benefits Forum 2016, to be held at The Grace Hotel Sydney, February 24th – 26th 2016. In his address, he’ll be discussing the new era of rewarding employees, focusing on leadership, culture and management practices.


For further information about The Remuneration and Benefits Forum 2016, or to secure your place to hear insights from one of the most influential members of the Australian technology industry, please click here


Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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