Aussies need to take chances

A leading light of the business world has called upon Australian firms to shake up their corporate culture to promote more innovation and risk taking.

CSIRO Chairman and Macquarie Executive Chairman Simon McKeon spoke at the NIBA Convention in Melbourne yesterday, saying a cultural reluctance to fail every now and then was stifling innovation.

“One of the saddest things I think culturally in this country is that relative to other countries is that we don’t actually allow people to fail very well,” he says.

“If we don’t try things and have the courage to get a few things wrong every now and then I think we’re in trouble.”

Simon McKeon

McKeon gave the example of Silicon Valley in the US, where much focus is on trying new things and exploring what went wrong if they fail to learn valuable lessons.

“That sort of failure is not seen as a black mark but something you can be proud of, something to put on the CV. It means you are experienced,” he says.

“We’re really a bit immature in this country and I think it is important that leaders say it is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them.

“Plainly, there is no sense in having one big mistake that blows up the whole company but a bunch of tiny mistakes can be great learning experiences.”

McKeon says such an attitude has to come from management down and he encouraged senior brokers to search out the sort of talent that makes innovation possible.

“When recruiting, tend to look for people who have a great talent for managing things well, which is important,” he says.

“But I think increasingly we need to be looking for those who have the restless urge to do something different and better. They may not be the most complete management but that restless urge should not be suppressed. It should be promoted where we can.

“It’s not just nice to have this type of attitude throughout the management ranks and the rest of the business – I would argue it is actually brutally essential nowadays.”