Archive for April, 2005

Want to innovate? Dispense with poisonous managers!

April 17, 2005

The National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship (USA) has highlighted findings of the Boston Consulting Group, based on its annual global survey of innovation.


The BCG survey concludes:
§        The biggest challenge in innovation is not invention, but execution i.e. commercialisation.
§        Commercialisation is more challenging because of new competition, price/cost pressures, shrinking product lifecycles, increasing integration of the world economy and technology shifts.
§        China, India and other low-cost countries are fundamentally changing the game. In China, there are now more than 180 R&D facilities operated by foreign corporations.
§        Internal or organisational issues are a key concern, regardless of geography. Alignment is paramount i.e. the entire organisation must be on the same page concerning objectives, tactics and commitment.  

BCG advises managers to:

§        Get alignment right – have people understanding the value of working together and the right skills and temperament. Managers who don’t are poisonous to the rest of organisation. Identify those people.
§        Spend time on creating an innovative environment.
§        Pick a few performance measures and start tracking. 

The BCG survey identifies innovative companies as Apple, 3M, GE, Microsoft and Sony. Every city and community wants innovative companies – they lift others and improve the milieu of activity.

Examples here are Bega Cheese (Bega), Priority Engineering (northern Adelaide), Mars and Rivers (Ballarat), Rip Curl and Quiksilver (Torquay) and CEA Technologies (Canberra).

Go to  

John Singleton – 30 years on

April 17, 2005

Marketing guru, John Singleton, flew down to Melbourne to address Marketing 101 students at Monash in the early 70s.

The lecture theatre was jam-packed with 300+ pimply, longhaired students.

His core message was that you MUST satisfy the customer – if you don’t you go broke!

He then stared straight at a guy in the second last row and said ‘Christ mate, what possessed you to buy that tie? You are satisfied, I trust?’

The massed students hooted with laughter.  

The student was a part-timer sitting next to me, and his tie was huge, purple and psychedelic. We both blushed profusely as 300 sets of eyes swung around.

“My mother bought me this tie as a birthday present, so why don’t you bugger off” he stammered.  

More laughter from the starry-eyed students.

Singo was using the banter to market his message. Thirty years on, he shouts every bar at Randwick when one of his horses wins a feature race. Another cost-effective marketing tool by a crazy, successful entrepreneur.    


Are you crazy?

April 17, 2005

 Colleagues in the USA have pointed us to a new book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success.

Author John Gartner contends there’s a genetically based condition responsible for a person having high energy, creativity and a propensity for taking risks – all hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs. The Hypomanic Edge takes you through five centuries of the “American entrepreneur.”

Visit  Why doesn’t someone in Oz and NZ start a similar exercise? It would be fascinating to get into the minds of our current batch of entrepreneurs and movers and shakers e.g. Dick Smith, Ita Buttrose, John Singleton, Rupert Murdoch, Ron Brierley, Janet Holmes a Court, Ron Walker. A common trait is to push the envelope.  

VCs squashing innovation

April 17, 2005

The April 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum questions the conventional wisdom that venture capitalists are a key player in driving innovation.



In “How Venture Capital Thwarts Innovation,” venture capitalists Bart Stuck and Michael Weingarten review the track records of venture-backed firms between 1992 – 2002. They find that the period did not generate significant innovation, and that the relationship between VC investments and innovation is not very strong.


Why? They argue that venture investors are very risk-averse, and thus less willing to back truly innovative ideas and concepts. The  authors present an interesting look at how VC firms operate and how these organizational patterns affect how new innovations are developed.  “How Venture Capital Thwarts Innovation,” by Bart Stuck and Michael Weingarten appears in the April 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum. It is available to view online.

Why Knoxville outgunned Chicago

April 17, 2005

Investment attraction is a well-developed science in the US.

Brunswick Boat Group is a good example. It wanted to establish a new headquarters site to escape the cocoon of its parent company, Brunswick Corp. By 2002, Brunswick Boat ($1.6 billion sales) had become the largest segment of Brunswick Corporation, a 160-year-old company that originally manufactured billiard tables but had diversified numerous times, through bowling equipment and other mostly recreational lines.  

Both the parent and its offspring were based in Lake Forest, Ilinois, in the Chicago metro area.  But Brunswick Boat needed to move to establish its own culture and identity.

Executives evaluated several criteria — airport access, quality of schools, health care and recreation — in prospective cities. Brunswick Boat whittled the list down to five cities in the South and began making visits, eventually selecting Knoxville (Tennessee) where 200 employees currently work in the corporate headquarters. The move united a company with different parts of its operations scattered across the country.  

There were numerous tangible reasons that led to the decision to locate in Knoxville:
§          The company’s flagship brand, Sea Ray Boats, is manufactured in 3 plants in Knoxville (1600 workers).
§          Sea Ray’s international headquarters is based in East Knoxville.
§          The work force that was familiar with fiberglass boat construction. 
§          Knoxville city officials got back to them within 24 hours after Brunswick Boat specified the assistance it needed – $3.5 million incentive package offered – infrastructure upgrades, facility improvements, work force training assistance and state tax incentives.
§          The quick response was a factor in Brunswick Boat’s decision.
§          Its location in eastern USA gives Brunswick Boat good transportation options.
§          Home to numerous cultural amenities – symphony orchestra, ballet/opera, University of Tennessee.  

Source: IEDC 

NZ official’s impressions on NZ clusters

April 17, 2005

A senior executive with NZ Trade and Enterprise  attended the conference of cluster practitioners in Wellington in 2005. He kindly provided his impressions.

This year is an important year for clusters in New Zealand. The pilot program is to be reviewed by the Ministry of Economic Development. The Ministry is also undertaking a study of regional innovation systems, and negotiations are underway for investigating other aspects of the NZ innovation systems next year.  

Thus, it was most encouraging to have a much larger group of practitioners in attendance this year, including many new faces. All were reporting on their many and varied experiences.

The international presenters from INNOVA, Sweden, and from Adelaide, Sydney and Cairns really lifted the quality of the interactions. They brought to the workshop a different perspective.  

There was a new wave of enthusiasm engendered by some pretty positive cluster results beginning to emerge from the 4 corners of NZ, and across a wide range of industrial specialisations, from earthquake engineering and natural hazards services to the development of a new export crop in the far north – Kumara (a variety of sweet potato brought to NZ by the Maori).

In that context, there was: 
§          unease that the terms of the original pilot program were too severe in terms of the time dimension for support of the clusters’ establishment.
§          a strong sense that the pilot could be considered a success, but that realising the full potential of the opportunities that the program had begun to unlock would take more time yet.
§          a strong sense that the clusters were at differing levels of maturity and strategic ambition, and that a one size-fits-all solution is not workable.
§          some concern that a number of the clusters had reached a plateau. Now a need to refresh their agenda to go beyond the “social capital” dimensions and harvesting the low hanging fruit.

Aussie impressions on NZ clusters

April 17, 2005

 CAP Board members Tracy Scott-Rimington (Cairns), Frank Wyatt (Adelaide) and Richard Walker (Sydney) attended the NZ cluster professionals conference in Wellington in early April. Their report is as follows. 

About 70 people (mostly NZ cluster facilitators) attended together with Lars Eklund of VINNOVA (President elect of The Competitiveness Institute). Main points: 
§          NZ has a competitive advantage in that it has only two level of government.      
§          Much more financial support for clusters across a range of departments, compared with Australia.      
§          The NZTE Cluster program is predominantly aimed at clusters that export. It is being evaluated by the Ministry of Economic Development.
§          Issues raised in the workshops were similar to Australia  – skill shortages, scope for clusters to promote joint bidding for projects, difficulty in building trust among cluster participants, cluster monitoring metrics.
§          Delegates raised the need for a mechanism to inform other cluster facilitators of initiatives – to avoid reinventing the wheel.  An interactive web-based notice board was suggested.  Activities needed include training of companies in the techniques of collaboration.
§          The concept of members of the cluster acting as “one firm” when bidding for projects or marketing the cluster needs to be supported initially by MOUs, then JV agreements to ensure that each participant understand their roles and expectations of benefits (financial, and otherwise).  These should be agreed to before the bid is submitted and before the tender is contracted.
§          In Nelson, a graduation ceremony for apprentices has been introduced to raise the profile of apprentices in industry and to attract new recruits. 
§          In the South Island a tracking system for 15 schools assists vocational planning. The progress of every high school student is tracked from year 10 until their early 20s.  An annual mail survey is utilised. 

Outcomes from bioindustries, Cairns

April 17, 2005

 Bioindustries Alliance of Tropical North Queensland (BioNQ) is a cluster representing knowledge-intensive R&D institutions and businesses.

It operates as an autonomous, not-for-profit cluster, under the structure/sponsorship of the Cairns Region Economic Development Corporation. It has 15 members covering nutraceuticals, renewable fibres, forestry, biopolymers, innovative food products & processing, bioenergy, environmental & waste management etc.

Outcomes in 2004 included:

  • Co-sponsored and organised with CREDC the inaugural Tropical SKI tour, part of the Australian Innovation Festival (May 2004). Delegates participated in the field trip that provided insights into the region’s capabilities in Tropical Science, Knowledge and Innovation.
  •       Two BioNQ members won the Queensland Government’s Primary Industries Innovation, Research & Development Award for their Ivycove Project in Mareeba (Cairns Highlands).
  • BioNQ and CREDC lobbied for a technology incubator, securing funds from the Australian Government for a feasibility study. The State has committed $600,000, subject to a favourable feasibility study.
  •   The Prime Minister committed $40 million to research to the North Queensland reef and rainforest, as part of $100 million environment research package. The R&D emanating from the Australian Tropical Rainforest Institute (being built at James Cook University) is related.
  • Funding for the Commercial Agroforestry Production Systems project – to diversify the sugar industry via value-adding technologies for the sugar fibre and timber processing industries.

 BioNQ’s vision is to have tropical North Queensland recognised internationally as being at the cutting edge of viable integrated sustainable bioindustries. It is looking to create strategic national and international linkages – so start a dialogue! Send an email RIGHT NOW!

Liguria bees give Kangaroo Island a buzz

April 17, 2005

Bob (no relation) Brown’s MuNet newsletter is a mine of information, and his April 2005 edition has a gem. 

My wife and I had a terrific three weeks travelling in our campervan, including two weeks on Kangaroo Island (South Australia). It is a great place for beaches, wildlife and general relaxation.

I was particularly interested to see how it has developed clusters to provide a mix of material goods and tourist destinations.  The whole island is essentially a giant cluster with virtual links between all of the enterprises on the island.

For example, there is a sheep dairy currently milking around 130 sheep twice a day with a locally developed machine system. This dairy produces excellent cheeses on site and also provides guided tours of the milking process and the cheese making facility.

Not far away is a unique honey production facility with a well-presented display, outlining of the life cycle of bees and a fascinating story about the bees on Kangaroo Island being the last pure-bred bees from the Liguria region in Italy – their ancestors came from Bologna in 1881 and have been isolated ever since.

Another short drive and there is a eucalyptus oil facility, again manufacturing a product and also providing interesting tours for visitors. There are similar operations producing lavender products and wool – in each case expert descriptions and discussions for visitors.  

The South Australian Government has backed all this commercial activity by providing first class facilities for visits to wildlife – kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, seals, pelicans, penguins, and many birds.