Wednesday, 30 March 2016

How to succeed at disrupting your business

image via iStock
by Marcus Powe, RMIT's Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Over the last few years, new terms and phrases have been introduced into the language of enterprise. The result has seen added confusion of the fundamental terms of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. Advisors, consultants and experts have embraced the new language and now business, government and educators are fluent. Some of my favourites include; creative innovation, applied entrepreneurship and deep insight. Has anyone yet to pivot as they scaffold? And the best is of course the smart phone; who on earth would want to by a dumb phone?

To be a successful innovator you need disruptive processes. What does this really mean? Perhaps what this is saying is you need to introduce change?

I have been introducing change for thirty years in business, education government and not for profits in 4 countries. I use the term innovation; after all, innovation introduces change that impacts on the way we do things and the way we think about things. Even today, there is much confusion about innovation, invention, continuous improvement, Blue Ocean, Pink Sky; on it goes.

Everyone is fearful of change. I often ask my students “who likes change?” and people pop up their hand. I think yeah right, I then change either the assessment or syllabus and they freak out (an academic term) and then I think, my students are being trained to embrace change to enable them to grasp the future, mmm….

So how can you be successful using change (disruption)?

In your organisation you only have three things to work with. I know you are thinking, not another bloody checklist (have you seen LinkedIn lately, it’s THE place for lists and aphorisms, I love it). Well, it’s really simple, frighteningly obvious and scares the hell out of those people I like to call the complicators.

In your organisation you only have three things: (1) people, (2) current processes and (3) the products/services you sell.

To be a success, (for the purpose of this article success means that the organisation makes more than it spends consistently, or in the case of not for profits, reduces its reliance on grants and handouts) we need to determine which of the three is the easiest to disrupt (change)?

The easiest to disrupt are processes, as processes do not resist change. The second easiest to change is the product or service. The real challenge, as you marketing enthusiasts know, is effective use of strategies and tactics to change consumers behaviour so that they embrace your new market offering and keep them from going to the competition.

OK, so you have guessed the hardest thing to change, people.

The reason is straightforward. We dislike and often resist change, because we simply do not or cannot effectively communicate the benefits of change to each other.
To change a process looks really easy on paper, it is not at all.

In many organisations I work with, I am still surprised when management wonders why integrating processes do not work as planned. The classic example is when people from different parts of the organisation sit together and talk after processes have been changed and make it apparent that they still do not know what the other does or even worse, they don’t care.
So what should we do to create success?

Simply disrupting your processes in order to be successful is weak and often reactive. By using the word disrupt, we somehow de humanise our organisations. We all work with people. People do not like change, especially in the current economic and technological turbulence. Why not have conversations with those that work with and for you? Why not say them “we need to change or we will no longer exist”? Why not say, “Help me to do this so we can all be successful”?

Use simple words, then everyone will get it. I dare you!

Friday, 11 March 2016

An environmentally just city works best for all in the end

image via iStock

by Anitra Nelson, RMIT University

Melbourne’s population is expected to almost double by mid-century, overtaking Sydney as Australia’s biggest city. But all states are growing and the increases are concentrated in the capital cities.

Along with adaptation, developing resilience and decarbonising buildings and other infrastructure – in response to climate change – the expansion and densification of the city present massive challenges for state and local council planners.

Skyscraper residential blocks and ultra-tiny apartments have already created controversy. Will Melbourne end up with a skyline like a pincushion, or Chicago without its grand style?
Are vertical communities feasible? If so, will they be gated communities?

With a two-tier, global-local real estate market and growing numbers of international students, will inner Melbourne become host – or hostage – to a clutter of boarding-house-like apartments? And will those living in oversized, energy-guzzling new homes in fringe suburbs spend hours every day in private cars to reach work, school, retail and medical services?

If planning once seemed a boring job entrenched in the minutiae of approving, rejecting or amending individual development plans, today every level of planner is engaged with stakeholders. They must argue the pros and cons of designing appropriate urban policies across vast and complex economic and social landscapes.

A recent planning proposal by RMIT University researchers Michael Buxton, Kath Phelan and Joe Hurley offers a vision of an environmentally efficient compact city. This would not only protect its cultural heritage and enhance its green spaces, but also create the possibility of building in environmental justice.

What is environmental justice?

“Environmental justice” is often spatially expressed. Say a landfill, polluting industry or airport is approved in an area of social deprivation. That means locals bear most disadvantages. Consumers elsewhere not only benefit from the resulting goods and services but are protected from the damaging impacts of their production.

Some residential areas are more exposed to industry and its hazards, which can have lasting disadvantages. Jes/flickr, CC BY-SA

An example of insidious environmental injustice, revealed by Australian health scientists, is air lead concentrations. This has caused almost one-third of the variance in suburban assault rates 21 years after exposure.

A current inquiry will suggest ways that environmental justice can be applied in the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). However, many sources of environmental injustice, such as planning, are beyond the EPA’s mandate. That makes these honourable aims a moot point.

Pockets of disadvantage often have historical and geographic sources. However, better urban planning can turn these areas into more desirable and healthy places to live. Appropriate planning strategies can minimise spatial disadvantage by ensuring services are well, and evenly, distributed throughout a city.

Community-based planning to get the mix right

The planning proposal focuses on appropriate land supply, infill opportunities and housing types. The goal is to maximise:
…the effective functioning of the city through access to employment and service provision, avoiding inequitable outcomes and increased social division, and protecting amenity and providing high-quality urban design and environmental conditions.
This approach respects the current heritage overlay and any pre-1945 building along the city’s tramways. Extensively using brownfield and ex-industrial land in Melbourne’s middle and outer suburbs maximises densification opportunities. It also promises to rehabilitate these neglected environments with well-serviced community-centred developments.

The researchers show that sprawling development in growth areas low in amenities could be minimised and made compact to increase service quality and quantity.

The thrust of the proposal dovetails well with a recently released report by other RMIT University researchers Tania Lewis, Victor Albert and Shae Hunter. They recommend:
Using an EPA social media campaign to move away from a focus purely on “risk” and “hazards”, where communities are positioned as “victims”, to encouraging a longer-term sense of urban environmental consciousness and engagement.
Scenarios that result in concrete proposals to oppose, modify and support are essential stages in coherent and engaged community-based planning. The first proposal was written to inspire debate on a pressing cluster of challenges that every Melburnian has a stake in solving.

The authors encourage lively public discussion to develop strong urban planning policies. Without these we risk our future being decided by developers, housing industry players and real estate markets.

Principles to guide us towards cities that work for all

Discontent with housing costs and options has become a 2016 election issue. Clear demands based on key principles are needed to steer the debate among our planners, politicians and parties in fruitful directions. Environmental justice is one such principle.

Australian cities should be made to work for all inhabitants. This involves evenly spreading the environmental disadvantages of industrial and commercial activities as well as the advantages of transport, educational and medical services.

This can be done through more appropriate zoning and planning regulations. The importance of this will only increase in coming decades of growth.

A city well planned in terms of environmental justice is more equitable by nature. Such a city is likely to have fewer entrenched and divisive sociopolitical conflicts.

The Conversation
Anitra Nelson, Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Research (GUSS, RMIT), RMIT University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.