Why is it that the endless opportunities available to large Australian companies – through their vast resources and global networks – are all too often languidly pursued or altogether ignored?
I am regularly astonished by the lack of foresight exercised by our supposed corporate leaders – the very individuals and companies who are apparently leading the charge on behalf of all Australians on the world stage, while emerging leaders (the true innovators and entrepreneurs) are forced to sit and watch in bemusement, or dismay, at the squandered potential.
Too many of these corporate heavyweights possess a swaggering self-regard that is rarely backed by an ability to deliver global results. And, if their annual reports and marketing brochures are anything to go by, they also see themselves as innovators – when they are really adapters.
Fast and genuine international success is generally derived from a business capitalising on a new or innovative technology (see Nokia, Microsoft, IBM). When competing in this market segment, senior executives must be willing to adapt quickly to changes in the environment. Decisions must be made that can make or break the company.
Yet, Australia’s corporate leaders seem content to manage their companies as ‘also-rans’.
Take Telstra’s recent foray into DVD rentals, an enterprise named fetchmemovies. The business model is not new ¡V it was adapted from US company Netflix, which pioneered online DVD rentals in 1999. It has taken Telstra five years to bring the concept down-under!
It’s amazing how many large companies are able to drift along, propelled by inertia and suspended by bureaucratic hot air. The youthful dynamism that once delivered them premium market status has long since been replaced by arrogance and largesse, leaving them as nimble as a dreadnaught in coral.
Another example is Australia’s banks, whose cartel-like operations lead them to believe they can charge fees for everything under the sun. They do so unchallenged. Banks will even charge you for having money deposited into your account from an overseas location. It’s like receiving a collect call without first speaking to the operator.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and there’s simply no survival imperative driving innovation at the large (not necessarily ‘the top’) end of town. I exist, therefore I am, seems to be the prevailing strategy.
Is there hope for our timid titans? Can they embrace innovation once again? Or will they continue to rely on their existing advantage and watch on as leaner and hungrier companies replace them?
Corporate bureaucracies are renowned for taking creative internal ideas and refining them into tedious, toothless initiatives that crawl into existence with preposterous pageantry. It is time that Australia’s major corporations shed their onion layers. Inside lies the core of ambition that once burned brightly, while outside churns an ever-evolving global economy that rewards innovation and punishes corporate complacency.
We await the revolution.
David Adamowicz is Managing Director of Cuisine Courier (VIC),