The face of change: What’s blocking innovation in Australia?

At a time when Australian industry is focused on innovation more than ever, the question needs to be asked: How can companies foster a culture of innovation?

Brand consultancy Landor Associates recently conducted a research study with 500 participants entitled “The face of change: What’s blocking innovation in Australia.” Findings show that while 80 percent of working Australians agree innovation improves their lifestyle, only 10 percent see innovation as important.

Both employees and management cite lack of business vision and company culture, combined with government rules and regulations, as the biggest hindrances to creativity. Furthermore, lack of inspiration is overwhelmingly seen as the single greatest inhibitor to innovation.

The study shows that employees have an appetite for change but are looking for leadership and inspiration from management. More than half of employees (53 percent) say that lack of inspiration from supervisors is the biggest roadblock, whereas only (39 percent) of management see this as an issue. Other barriers mentioned include time constraints, existing processes, day-to-day tasks, and company culture.

Select the top three barriers that keep you from innovating in your job:


Lack of inspiration from superiors is regarded as the major barrier to people being able to effectively innovate in their job, time allowed is second, and existing processes third.

“A cultural disconnect between upper management and lower-middle management is a major block to innovation in Australian business,” says Dominic Walsh, managing director of Landor Australia. “Australia has great capabilities in innovation, but Australians lack the ability to implement them. Everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job.”

Australian business leaders could set the bar for the rest of the world by demonstrating better vision and actively fostering innovation. As the country loses outmoded ideas and processes, the opportunity is there for the taking, underpinned by the advantage of globalisation and digitisation. In the eye of the storm, timing has never been more pressing, especially with the growing economies of the Asian Tigers.

The study also points out that maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle with friends and family is our nation’s top priority. Of lesser importance is a prosperous economy (18 percent) and career success (17 percent).

Rank the following options from 1 to 6 in terms of their importance to your lifestyle:


Only 10 percent of the working population rank “innovative country” first or second in importance to their lifestyle, compared with 60 percent “friends & family,” 50 percent “work/life balance,” and 43 percent “healthy lifestyle.”

“The values needed to drive innovation conflict with Australian culture. While we are keen adopters of the latest technology and take pride in our sporting prowess, when it comes to putting in the extra effort, it seems we’d prefer to go to the beach. The quaint colloquialism of ‘she’ll be right’ is ever apt,” adds Walsh.

While nobody likes change, everybody seeks improvement and appreciates acknowledgement and rewards.

According to Landor, the first step in reversing Australia’s laid-back mentality is through brand engagement—rallying people around a common purpose and vision. A clear business vision can promote positive changes in strategy, planning, teams, and training. To facilitate brand engagement, Landor has launched its Innovation Diagnostic tool, which gauges employee desire for change and points out specific influencers and barriers to innovation within a business.

Australia has a rich heritage of innovation: from the stump-jump plough that revolutionised agriculture in 1876 to the more recent bionic ear and black-box flight recorder. And, we are driving standards in medical care every day. We are highly educated, have a gung-ho fearless spirit, and stake a claim as an early-adopter nation.

“But the tall poppy syndrome is a problem. Our egalitarian society works against the individualism required to push strong ideas through and create commercial value. Therein lays the missing link between having the idea and actually implementing it. When companies develop and articulate their vision, educate and train employees, and develop a culture of reward and acknowledgement, we will see the lucky country become the clever country,” says Walsh.

Landor’s three steps to putting innovation into corporate culture:

  1. Inspire staff around a compelling vision
  2. Change employee behaviour by fostering a more innovative culture
  3. Improve operations to allow a company to support a culture of innovation

Key findings

  • 80 percent of the working population say innovation improves their lifestyle but only 10 percent rank innovation as important to their lifestyle
  • Business vision is regarded as the largest positive influence on innovation across all levels of workers
  • Inspiration from superiors is regarded as the largest influence on people for effectively innovating in their job
  • 53 percent of employees say that a lack of inspiration from superiors is a major barrier to innovation in their roles, versus only 39 percent of upper management

To learn more, download the full report.

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