30 October 2015

Mining the innovation boom

Author :

For over 20 years the Australian economy rode high on the back of a once in a century mining boom. Despite declining revenues and exports, the Government continues to approve massive open cut mines, attaching to coal an importance the rest of the world seems to be quickly changing its mind about.

To state Australia’s economy is transitioning is an understatement. Combining the mining fade-out with the decline in the manufacturing industry, a traditional mainstay of the Australian economy, and decade high unemployment, puts the economy under immense pressure.

But what does a country do when the mining boom begins to fade, and the realities of an economy focused on the belief the good times would never end becomes a story fading into myth and legend?

In an article on innovation in the Australian Financial Review, Wednesday October 28 2015 John Stewart, former investment banker and now Chief Executive Officer of start-up Health& addressed the issues of Australia’s high risk economy, and the importance of developing and investing in risky start-up ventures.

When he announced his new cabinet in September 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull returned the Government focus to one that was focused on the future, talking about meeting the inherent challenges of a disruptive environment with agility and innovation.

Christopher Pyne was announced as the new Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and in his acceptance of the role said.

With a sweeping tide of new disruptive technologies that will entirely transform the way we live and the way we work, Australian industry must continue to lead the world in research and innovation, ensuring our nation can seize the opportunities ahead.”

As Government’s across the country deal with constant change in the economic landscape, the need to look to the future and develop Australia’s own tech industry is paramount.

In a statement on October 22, 2015 New South Wales Premier Mike Baird highlighted the importance of tech start-ups to the future of the New South Wales economy when announcing the Bays Precinct Transformation Plan, allocating the White Bay Power Station as the future hub of knowledge-intensive industries.

But being a tech entrepreneur in Australia is a risky proposition. With word from Canberra the Government’s innovation strategy to be released in December will address key obstacles to turning the Australian economy into an innovation powerhouse, the current situation is less than ideal.

“We need to encourage entrepreneurs and investors to invest in risky start-ups if we are to de-risk the economy,” John Stewart said in his opinion piece “How to make tech sector more like Silicon Valley,” in the Australian Financial Review, Wednesday 28 October, 2015.

But how do Governments go about de-risking an economy that is transitioning away from the key sectors that made Australia one of the few economies to ride out the GFC and emerge relatively unscathed?

Tax breaks, increases in R&D funding and Federal budget investment in start-up tech companies would go a long way towards overcoming the risks associated with creating a start-up in today’s economy.

Innovation and agility may be the buzzwords of today, but the impacts of rapid change are felt everywhere.

While “digital disruption,” has been talked about in boardrooms and newspapers for some time, the reality is Australia can no longer depend on the traditional and must embrace a more disruptive reality if we are going to continue to grow the Australian economy.

Uber, the ride sharing app currently at war with the Australian Taxi Drivers Association is just one example of how technology has the ability to disrupt existing business models, providing consumers with cheaper alternatives to traditional business models.

Airbnb is another, now the largest hotel brand in the world while not actually owning any physical properties themselves.  

The Australian economy will continue to transition away from traditional industries and it is up to the Governments of Australia to ensure that we are ready, and able, to make the most of new and emerging industries.

A recent report by Deloitte Access Economics says a 10 per cent increase in research spending would eventually yield an increase of over $100 billion in GDP. To put this into perspective according to the ABS 2011 -2012 the auto manufacturing industry in Australia contributed only $5.4 billion to the nations GDP.

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.

29 October 2015

Can cannabis-based medicines change the future of children with epilepsy?

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New South Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward announced on Tuesday the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the New South Wales Government and GW Pharmaceuticals.

The $21 million dollar commitment to support medicinal cannabis reforms will progress a major new research program for cannabis-based medicines in children with severe, drug resistant childhood epilepsy.

This confirms New South Wales’ position as a world leader on medicinal cannabis and demonstrates the determination of our Government to ensure we secure these ground breaking trials,” Mr Baird said.

Our research and development is driven by compassion for those suffering so we hope these initiatives will bring relief to many children and their loved ones.”

The MOU with GW, a world leader in the research and development of novel cannabis-based prescription medicines, with more than 17 years of cannabinoid research experience, will facilitate:

  • A world first, phase 2 clinical trial in children for GW’s novel product containing the cannabinoid cannibidivarin (CBDV);
  • A compassionate access scheme for Epidiolex®, GW’s product containing cannabidiol (CBD) which is currently in late stage trials in childhood epilepsy in the United States;
  • Provision for New South Wales to host additional phase 3 clinical trials in children with treatment-resistant epilepsy; and
  • And a phase 4 clinical trial of Epidiolex® based on phase 3 studies.

The New South Wales Government is providing $3.5 million to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network to lead the world first, phase 2 clinical trial of CBDV in children, commencing in 2016.

Pre-Clinical studies have shown that CBDV has significant promise as an anti-epileptic agent,” Dr John Lawson, Sydney Children’s Hospital Network spokesperson said.

What is CBDV?

CBDV is a molecule in the cannabis plant that has shown promising results as an anti-convulsant, and for which GW Pharmaceuticals already has phase 1 clinical trial results in adults.

CBDV does not produce the psychoactive effect associated with herbal cannabis.

"The phase 1 testing was carried out in healthy adults with no significant side effects," said GW CEO Justin Glover. "We're now ready to progress to phase 2 in children and have chosen to do this in New South Wales."

The goal of the trials into both CBDV and Epidiolex ® is to gather location medication safety data to support an application to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration to make the product more widely available, should it be proven to be useful.

 “Our most vulnerable children will have access to these innovating and advanced drugs,” Ms Goward said.

For further information click here for the joint press release from NSW Premier Mike Baird and the NSW Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward.

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.

28 October 2015

Is rigid adherence to traditional workplace models costing you productivity?

Author :

While workplace flexibility has been the go-to buzzword in HR and business circles for some time now, the reality is most small businesses appear to be fine with flexibility in theory, but not in practice.

Recently released research by Galaxy for business solutions provider Citrix suggests the Australian economy, and small to medium businesses, are missing out on productivity gains estimated to be approximately $135 billion each year to the national economy.

56 per cent of people surveyed said they were not able to work from home and 72 per cent said they wanted the opportunity.

Statistics show that Australian workers lose approximately 82 million hours a week commuting to and from work, with average travel costs totaling approximately $109 million a week.

As the Australian workplace transitions and millennials become the driving force of the business community, the inability to work from home could put employers in the position of higher than average staff turnover along with the additional costs of recruiting and on the job training of a parade of new employees.

The harsh reality is the majority of organisations do not trust their employees to be as productive at home as they do in the office,” said Citrix regional director Lindsay Brown. “Even though the economic and social benefits offer a compelling argument that we can no longer ignore.”

As Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said recently, Australia needs to be innovative and agile as the economy transitions away from traditional revenue generation and moves to a digital economy.

With the age of retirement extending to 70 and Federal Government calls for older Australians to return to work, the benefit to older Australian’s and the country's employers is obvious.

Respondents surveyed aged 55 – 69 said they would work more hours and stay in the workforce longer, if flexible work options, such as working from home, were available.

A reputation for treating your staff as people, not only as profit generating silos, is what will position organisations into preferred workplaces for future generations.

Traditional modes of operating, the daily 9 to 5 grind, no longer require people to be present in an office. With the growth of telecommuting and the development of the Australian NBN, the opportunities for employee savvy businesses are endless.

Do you agree with the report findings that employers don’t trust their workers to be productive when working from home? Leave a comment below and tell us your opinion on the realities of workplace flexibility and working from home. 

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.

27 October 2015

25% of Australian students drop out before graduating

Author :

After the Abbott Government’s 2014 budget announced unprecedented cuts to Federal funding of State education, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird referred to the cuts as a “kick in the guts to the people of New South Wales.”

The then Federal Education Minister’s perceived back flip on Gonski funding did nothing to ensure smooth waters between Federal and State Level Governments across the country, with Australia’s school students caught in the cross-fire.

The recent “The Education Opportunity in Australia 2015” report launched on Monday by education policy think tank the Mitchell Institute exposed the alarming statistic that 26 per cent of Australian students, or approximately 81, 199 people, are not finishing their high school education.

The sheer volume of students failing to complete their high school education and dropping out of the education system altogether paints a bleak picture for the future workforce in Australia, developing a system of “haves and have nots,” that will firmly entrench disadvantage in Australian society for the coming generation.

According to the report, New South Wales experienced at 27% drop out rate equating to 26,535 people failing to achieve high school graduation.

Statistics in the report show socially disadvantaged students were leaving school at a much higher rate – 40 per cent – compared to approximately 10 per cent of students from wealthier backgrounds.

Most of the students from socially disadvantage backgrounds are attending government schools (approximately 77.5 per cent), however current government expenditure on private schools has increased 107 per cent in recent years, more than double the growth in funding for state schools.

This is the future workforce of Australia,” Mitchell Institute Director Dr Sara Glover said in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. “If we are not equipping them well enough for that, this is a quarter of young talent wasted. For our economy, and our future, we can’t afford to do that.”

Given the transitioning Australian economy and the call to increase enrollment and study in S.T.E.M subjects, the idea that a quarter of Australia’s next generation is being left behind is one that must be addressed.

The report also reflected on the fact 28.4 per cent of Australian Year 7 students do not meet international standards in reading, with one in six students who do perform above benchmark standards failing to complete Year 12, or an equivalent by the age of 19.

Education has been stuck in the traditional model now for many years. Perhaps it is time to examine a more flexible approach to education, providing students with the opportunity to both study and gain long term skills to help bridge the gap caused by increased high school drop outs. 

Given the levels of success shown by the digital revolution in Higher Education, perhaps there are more flexible options which could allow students to learn and flourish outside the more traditional and rigid classroom model.

For further information and to download The Educational Opportunity in Australia 2015 report, please click here

15 October 2015

10 Tips for an effective rewards and recognition strategy

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There is no doubt about it: rewards and recognition programmes are instrumental in driving engagement, increasing employee retention and has a positive impact on company culture and productivity. Now that’s just fine and dandy, but you can’t just throw random incentives at your staff, expect them to be over the moon with excitement and see your company’s productivity soar. Sorry to break this to you, but it isn’t that easy.
To help you implement an effective rewards and recognition strategy, follow these 10 tried-and-true tips offered by Incentive. 

1.       Plan with a solid strategy. Define metrics that align with the company’s mission. If employees are made aware of the company’s aspiration and how their work has a direct impact on where the company is heading, they will see that they are all in this together and that their role can have a major impact. 

2.       Communicate clearly and often. So you got your team all excited about the new recognition programme, that’s great, but your work is only starting. You have to continuously remind employees of the rewards and benefits so it stays front of mind and employees see how their work fits in the company’s general mission. Also, make sure you communicate the rules clearly. There’s nothing worse than thinking that you’re on the right track when really you aren’t.

3.       Deliver on-the-spot rewards. Who cares about rewards when you’re being recognised for something you did six months ago? Make sure recognition is timely, otherwise your programme might have an adverse effect and employees will just get annoyed.

4.       Entice with relevant rewards. Make things personal and unique. For example, younger generations that are more recent to the workforce won’t have the same tastes or interests to your baby-boomer employees. Also, offering a bottle of wine to a recovering alcoholic might not be a smart move.

5.       Develop a fair and justified rules structure. Let’s come back to those rules. Now that you’ve made them clear, make sure that they are fair. Rules should be understandable, goals should be achievable and everyone should have a fair chance. For example, if there is only one person that can reach the goal due to the essence of their tasks, you’ll probably have difficulty in getting your employees motivated in the first place.

6.       Manage programme efforts within a single platform. Upper-management might not be aware of rewards and incentives offered by middle management and different business units. Make sure that you combine all incentives under a single platform to offer a consistent and seamless strategy across your entire organisation.   

7.       Ensure upper-management buy-in. This sort of speaks for itself. You won’t go very far if company leadership doesn’t see the relevance in your rewards and recognition programme.

8.       Use technology to boost employee engagement. The opportunity to share achievement with friends and colleagues and even set up a little healthy competition is something that you will want to offer employees.  Organise something on your intranet and use social media to boost engagement and productivity.

9.       Seek continuous feedback. Constantly touch base with employees to answer any questions they may have about your programme and gather feedback to make future improvements. 

10.   Develop measurable results. You won’t know whether your programme is having a positive impact on engagement and productivity unless you can measure and analyse results. Determine the right metrics to evaluate your strategy’s success and measure throughout the time it is in place, this way you might be able to make some corrections to have a stronger impact.

Follow these tips to for an effective strategy, but also remember that intrinsic rewards are becoming more valued than extrinsic rewards. So before throwing money and gifts at employees, take a long, hard look at your organisation and ask yourself if you’re offering what they want and need more than anything: gratifying work, a balanced lifestyle and a positive working culture.
Although Alexandra didn’t know much about conference production before first coming across this opportunity with Akolade, she has quickly become passionate about her job. Gaining in-depth knowledge in a variety of new fields without going through exam stress? Who could ask for more? If ever you speak to Alexandra and wonder what that funny accent is, it is from Quebec, French-speaking Canada. Do not hesitate to ask Alexandra about her former life on the 47th parallel; she will be thrilled to talk to you about snow storms, skiing and -35⁰c!

13 October 2015

How to become the market leader in your field

Author :

It's risky business to up and change your business model or any integral part of your strategy for that matter. If you miscalculate or misjudge, you stand to lose much more than if you had not made a change at all.

So why change what isn’t broken? The answer is, if you want to be the very best in the biz, you can’t afford not to.

Gary Pert took this approach when he accepted the role of CEO of Collingwood Football club.  At this time, the club was in great debt, not winning premierships and trailing behind the top performing clubs in terms of membership.

Gary’s vision was for Collingwood to become the best football club in the world. He believed he had 2 options to turn things. Option 1 was to keep pushing his staff year on year to improve. He could achieve this by assessing his employee’s and player’s capabilities and setting goals that were ‘realistic’, within their reach. He knew this would yield incremental improvements year on year. The thing was, he needed much more than incremental improvements. He needed a herculean shift.

Option 2 was to set goals for the club that seemed completely unattainable. This would mean completely reinventing the club’s strategy, purpose and values.  Option 2 didn’t involve hitching the club’s wagon to his employees but rather the other way around. Those that were not willing, or capable, of achieving would sink or swim because regardless of who was on board the club was going to achieve its goal of becoming the best.

Needless to say the later was Gary’s choice. By adopting this method, Garry created a tension between the club’s aspirations and what was currently being done.

He focused on changing people’s minds by redefining what was possible. Before long unprecedented innovation was occurring. Namely, the club’s coach came up with the concept ‘rotations’. A system of rotating players on and off the field multiple times during a game. This allowed them to compete with much bigger and stronger players by ensuring that their younger players were only on the field for short periods of time and therefore always remained fresh. Subsequently, the club went onto win their first premiership in 20 years. Their membership also grew to be the largest in the country.

So how can we all get the same results as Gary Pert? Create opportunity for big innovation.

Here are 6 tips that all business leaders can apply to enable big innovation:
1. Set ‘unachievable’ goals and stick to them
By setting your sights high, you will create a tension between what is being done and what needs to be achieved. Inevitably innovative processes, systems and methodologies will surface as a means to achieving them.

2. Find ways to revamp your customer experience

  • Identify why it is that your customer purchases your product/service.
  • Can you leverage new technologies or processes to transform your customer experiences?

3. Identify redundant expense categories and find ways to reduce or eliminate them

Are there expense categories that you could dramatically reduce or eliminate altogether? This could be time, financial or human capital.
4. Reduce or eliminate purchasing risks for your customer

Is there risks for your customer in purchasing your product? If so, is there a way to reduce / eliminate upfront them?

5. Engage your employees daily
Find ways to keep your staff motivated and ‘active’ in their roles as opposed to passive. Disengaged and toxic staff will cost your organisation more than you’ll ever know.  

6. Assess any adverse side effects of your product/service and find ways to reduce them
Are there any negative environmental, social or cultural effects of your product/ service? If so, can they be reduced or reinvented?

From a young age Luana wanted to become a teacher. She would line up her teddies in a row and teach them for hours on end. However, she eventually grew tired of their nonchalance and has ended up leading a team of producers instead- which she finds far more fulfilling and stimulating!  

Luana comes from an experienced production and management background. She has produced and topic generated events across Asia and Australia.

Luana enjoys learning about emerging trends and drivers for change and loves the notion of the 'butterfly effect'- that change can start small but grow immeasurably through a ripple effect.

09 October 2015

Increasing NFP efficiency through technology

Author :

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change” - Bill Clinton

With increasing innovations in technologies, there are numerous opportunities for NFP to increase their operating efficiencies. For instance, it can streamline the volunteer management process, keep track of complex finances, etc.

There are many NFPs that are under pressure to do ‘more’ with ‘less’. The decline in government funding has really made NFP realise that they need to figure out a way to operate differently to ensure longevity and viability of their organisation.  

A survey developed by Infoxchange, Connecting Up and TechSoup NZ (TechSoup) highlighted that in the past NFPs have not out much though into adopting new or updating their IT systems and spent most of their money towards frontline service delivery. However in this era, there is a real need for technology to drive donor engagement, to measure funding success and to communicate success in a professional manner to acquire or maintain corporate partnerships.

The survey also showed that almost half of the organisations that participated in the survey do not have an IT plan have basic or challenged IT capability. A large proportion of these organisations have also reported a decreasing revenue over the past 12 months. Therefore a poor uptake of up-to-date IT systems can have a damaging impact on the amount of income being generated by NFPs.

Another interesting fact that the survey highlights is that the top priority for NFP is to improve their online presence by improving their website and their social media tools.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is a classic example of how social media can be used to communicate a NFP mission and spread awareness of a cause. The ALS Association raises money to fund research on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and they raised more than $100 million during a 30-day last year. The Ice Bucket Challenge was in the public eye for a long time and famous actors and athletes, posting YouTube videos of themselves being doused with a bucket of ice water further promoted this viral campaign to become a global phenomenon.

Girl Scouts in America is another NFP that have embraced technology to increase their efficiency. They launched the ‘Digital Cookie’ in December last year where they created a website to sell their cookies online. This gave them the opportunity to track who is buying what and gave them an opportunity to continually improve their service and their offerings.   

Many NFP do struggle in embracing technology and the reason is simple: they are not sure where to improve their IT and how to achieve it. The survey mentions that 50% are eager to keep up with technology however they aren’t sure what key areas to invest their money into and how to effectively implement these changes in their organisation.

Capterra is an organisation that that helps organisation find the right software and they recently released the biggest nonprofit technology trends in 2015:

1.       Going mobile: Making their website and donation platform more mobile and user friendly

2.       Increasing their visuals: Focussed on mission driven videos, images, and infographics. Also a marked uptake in social media platforms such as Instagram and Vine.

3.       The potential to go to the cloud: Many are looking at the possibility to adopt cloud computing 

NFP have to change the way they used to operate in order to ensure viability and longevity. They need to harness and leverage the benefits of this digitally driven era. As technology continues to evolve in this fast paced digitally driven era, NFP organisations need to evolve with.
When Aranei was seven she truly believed she could one day train turtles in the Galapagos. Unfortunately she came to the realization that such a thing could never happen. A couple of years later, she decided to be a conference producer and has never looked back. The best part of her role is exploring different sectors and getting in-depth insights from thought leaders and well-experienced specialists from varying sectors.     

01 October 2015

10 traits that make up a good team player

Author :

From kindergarten all the way to retirement and beyond, most of us have to deal with team work. I remember at university, every time a professor announced a new assignment half of the class would quickly ask if they could do the work as a team while others – like me – stared them down and wished they could throw fire darts out of their eyes so the others wouldn’t give the professor any ideas.

It’s not that I didn’t like team work, but rather that I have a knack for pairing up with people who don’t have the same priorities or work ethics as my own. For example, it’s unacceptable to make your team wait an hour for you because ‘your flatmate was taking a shower’. It’s unacceptable that you couldn’t hand in your part of the work because your grandma died… for the fourth time. It’s ABSOLUTELY unacceptable to give my part of the work to one of your friends in the class just to help them out to then find out that your friend plagiarised my part of the work and that I’M in trouble.

In other words, I’ve had pretty bad experiences with team work, but when I do find someone who demonstrates the following qualities identified by the ‘For Dummies’ series, boy do we deliver the best product.

The best team player:

1.       Demonstrates reliability. You say it, you do it.

2.       Communicates constructively. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts, but find a way of doing it respectfully and making a positive contribution!

3.       Listens actively. All good to make a point and give your opinion, but your teammates probably have their word to say as well. Be ready to take criticism without being defensive.

4.       Functions as an active participant. If you’re there, be all there. Don’t be a passive slug that shows up to a meeting, doesn’t engage, contribute or even listen to what’s going on. Wake up.

5.       Shares openly and willingly. Share experience, knowledge, information and stories. Don’t keep relevant things to yourself and help keep your team in the loop.

6.       Cooperates and pitches in to help. Cooperation means you work with others. Don’t micromanage your colleagues and – on the other end of the spectrum – don’t be shy to put your hand up and contribute to the work.

7.       Exhibits flexibility. Life happens and you have to understand and accept that your peers may have things come up. Don’t whine or freak out because the plan won’t go EXACTLY as you had expected. Flexibility means that you have to be able to work around unexpected events, but it also means that you have to be flexible in your opinion. If you and your teammates have different opinions, figure out how to meet halfway. 

8.       Shows commitment to the team. To be a good teammate, you have to care about your work and show that you care about it. No one likes someone who’s too laid back or too indifferent.

9.       Works as a problem-solver. The good team player will be a problem-solver, not a problem-maker.

10.   Treats others in a respectful and supportive manner. Consistently. Not just when you feel like it. It’s the golden rule: treat other the way you want to be treated. Offer the support you would want and expect in return.

If you want to be that person that everyone turns when a new team project is announced, make sure to follow these tips. If you prefer not following our advice and want to take example on that girl I erased from my contact list as soon as the final thesis was over, well congratulations! You’ve just been branded the worst team player.

Although Alexandra didn’t know much about conference production before first coming across this opportunity with Akolade, she has quickly become passionate about her job. Gaining in-depth knowledge in a variety of new fields without going through exam stress? Who could ask for more? If ever you speak to Alexandra and wonder what that funny accent is, it is from Quebec, French-speaking Canada. Do not hesitate to ask Alexandra about her former life on the 47th parallel; she will be thrilled to talk to you about snow storms, skiing and -35⁰c!