Stop Producing Outputs of No Use to Businesses

by | Sep 7, 2020

Have you ever tried unsuccessfully to introduce a new idea to an organisation, become a new service provider or be appointed to an industry or training board?

One reason you’ve failed is that the institution has become a closed shop. New thinking is seen as a threat.

When institutions choose to defend current arrangements, they create policies, services (like research or training) and products that were demanded in a past era. 

The costs extend far beyond the direct annual investments of scarce funds. It can undermine the competitiveness of industries for years.

A recent NSW Productivity Commission report highlighted that the post-pandemic employment crisis requires radical changes to old practices, including how industry trains and skills employees. It seems that the training industry has been so good at protecting existing arrangements it has created skill sets that are “of no use to employers”.

The closed shop approach described in the report is not a new phenomenon. For example, how often do we read of massive industry investments in research and low levels of application by businesses? More value is being placed on research than on development.

Such institutions usually respond by claiming that it is businesses being tardy. They shift blame.

All the while, responsibility for performance sits with the board and management of the institution, which is choosing to continue investing OPM (other people’s money) in the full knowledge that the outputs are not being valued by most businesses.

The behaviour can continue while ever accountability and transparency are constrained.

When research, training or other services are of no use to most businesses, it is a clear signal that the system has become driven by institutional and vested interests, rather than by business priorities. 

Every institution and especially those that have been successful in the past are prone to developing organisational ‘antibodies’ that will mobilise to reject any threats to the status quo. 

Breaking through requires leadership that welcomes diversity of thinking, to help in adapting faster and facing the market. They need to embrace the innovators, not reject them.

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