Reaching out to research relationships; Developing our knowledge capabilities; A milder slowdown.

    Reaching out to research relationships

    Congratulations for lifting the debate on the important issue of the triple bottom line (Corporate Citizenship: More Than a Good Idea, May issue). Professor Birch of Deakin University challenges that Australian companies don't know how to put people before profits. However, a new industry is emerging through establishment of organisations focused on creating this much-needed bridge. The consulting industry is gearing up with specialist cause marketing consultancies, a charity rating business, PR companies and advertising agencies beginning to offer services in the area. New bodies are also developing in the not-for-profit sector to facilitate relationships. Research Australia has recently been created with the view to making health and medical research a higher national priority. It is not a pure lobby group, nor a professional association, but a grassroots body charged with facilitating relationships between the research community, the corporate sector, consumers and government. The initiative was an important outcome of the Health and Medical Research Strategic Review (the Wills Review) and parallels the successful Research America concept.

    It seeks greater investment for the health and medical research sector from corporate Australia, government and the general public. For every dollar invested the multiplier effect is substantial. It is reflected in disease breakthroughs to improve the health of our community, in consolidating research investment in Australia, and in driving new export dollars from the knowledge economy. Enlightened organisations such as the Australian Stock Exchange, the Commonwealth Bank and Perpetual Trustees Foundation are behind it. The reasons for involvement are different – some do it for philanthropy, others to build meaningful stakeholder relationships and sometimes a mix of the two

    Bev Dyke, FAICD

    Chief Executive Officer Research Australia

    Developing our knowledge capabilities

    Sitting in the audience at the AICD National Conference in May, while Juan Enriquez and Jonathan West shared their knowledge, exquisitely demonstrated to me the risks to Australia's economic future inherent in an uncontrolled brain drain. If the life science revolution is going to impact upon us to a larger degree than the IT revolution, as these experts told us, then every one of us in business will have to learn a whole new language. "Genomics" is the broad topic upon which we need to increase our capabilities, just like it used to be "operating systems" and "word processing". And we cannot afford to lose our scientists, thinkers and researchers to other countries that better understand the impact of this revolution on the lives of every citizen. Enriquez and West, in the unscheduled Friday breakfast session asked, "What needs to happen to increase this country's knowledge capabilities?" I was dismayed by the general tenor of the audience response: "The Government has to do this, or that", "Our children need to be taught differently", "The tax benefits need to be changed", blah blah . . .

    My proposition is this: each one of us who is aware of the urgent challenge to develop our nation's knowledge capabilities is personally responsible to change the system and the environment. We can't afford to keep passing the buck to others. Twenty years' experience as a tax lawyer showed me that we live in an "analgesic society". If something goes wrong, or some money is lost, find someone or something to blame. Find the "analgesic pill" of a remedy against another. Relieve the problem with a court case, or a refusal to pay money, but do not, in any circumstances, acknowledge that the problem lies with us, that we are actually responsible. Find a reason to justify what you did, so that the fault cannot be said to lie with you. It is so easy to blame others, to justify a situation because of someone else's behaviour, and to pass the buck because we don't have the position or authority to do something about it. Taking responsibility for our lives, for our organisations, and for our nation's future is difficult, terrifying, and dangerous. And yet, it is liberating, energising, and motivating.

    I agree with Helen Keller's view: "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." Specifically, taking responsibility has different practical meanings depending on the circumstances. True leaders are willing to take responsibility. Organisational success in any field, be it business, sport, politics, or charity, is determined by the number of team members who are willing to take responsibility and to be accountable. Yet, not many people seem willing, or able to do so. Why? We are not stupid. There are a string of fantastic specific reasons why we resist taking responsibility. I spend my professional life now as Australia's Passion Provocateur, presenting key note speeches and facilitating workshops to provoke a raising of levels of passion in organisations and individuals. Passion is the key resource for business success in the 21st century. It is a "source of unlimited energy from your soul, or spirit or heart that enables you to produce extraordinary results". Passion is the source of your courage, it enables you to do difficult things, to take risks, to live the life of daring that Helen Keller challenges us to live.

    When you are passionate about Australia's future, you will care enough to "take responsibility" for the development of our nation's knowledge capabilities. Gary Hamel in Leading the Revolution (Harvard Business School Press, 2000) says that we are in such revolutionary business times that we need to be revolutionaries. At the book's last page, he says: "It doesn't matter whether you're the big cheese or a cubicle rat_ It doesn't matter whether you command a legion of minions, or only your Palm Pilot. "All that matters is whether you care enough to start from where you are! "So ask yourself: Do you care so much about the magnificent difference that you can make in this world that you're willing to try and change it with your bare heart?" Therefore, stop waiting for the Government to do something. Stop waiting for your bosses to do something. Stop waiting for "big business" to do something. Stop waiting for "they" to do something.

    Charles B Kovess

    Victorian Branch President

    National Speakers' Association of Australia

    A milder slowdown

    Two differences between 1989 and now, in public debt and in private asset holdings, absent from Dr Peter Brain's analysis (Company Director, April), should make the current slowdown much milder than the 1991 recession. Whereas businesses and households have been running up debt since the mid 90s, governments have been running it down - by $50 billion by the Commonwealth government alone, according to Mr. Costello. Concomitantly, the asset sides of the balance sheets record the shift from public to private ownership of chunks of the economy, directly as shareholders and indirectly through superannuation accounts. Superannuation growth would also have reduced discretionary income relative to disposable income. Though households are spending as much of their discretionary income on debt service now as immediately prior to the 1991 recession, they are spending less of their disposable income on it; and more of the debt service relates to investment and less to consumption now than before. Though households owe banks and other financial intermediaries more now than in 1989 they now own more of the economy. Moreover, today's lower interest rates should allow debt reduction, to the extent that it is necessary, to impact more lightly on consumption than was the case previously.

    John Millett


    The purpose of this database is to provide a full-text record of all articles that have appeared in the CDJ since February 1997. It is aimed to assist in the research and reference process. The database has a full-text index and will enable articles to be easily retrieved.It should be noted that information contained in this database is in pre-publication format only - IT IS NOT THE FINAL PRINTED VERSION OF THE CDJ - therefore there might be slight discrepancies between the contents of this database and the printed CDJ.

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