Blog – Culture’s Role in Future Proofing Australia

Most leaders are well aware of the importance of agility and innovation to the long term survival of their organisations as the rate of change increases and the future becomes more uncertain and less predictable.

However, this is also a concern on a larger societal level, with innovation being key to protecting the standard of living we have become accustomed to. This was recognised by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull back when he first came to power in 2015, announcing a vision for the future of Australia as an ‘innovation nation’, he clearly saw this as a strategic priority “The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves.”.

While the amount of progress we’ve made towards that vision is debatable, with a  recent review by researcher Chad Renando suggesting mixed results so far, one key step was the establishment of the Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) Board in 2016. The board was tasked with producing a strategic plan for how to turn Australia into a top-tier innovation nation by 2030. This plan was published in 2017 and identified 5 key imperatives, which are shown below in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Five imperatives for the Australian innovation, science and research system.

Source: ISA 2017

The plan outlined the need for closer integration between industry, government and academia and the role each of those groups must play in improving the state of innovation in Australia. Importantly though it also identified the central role that culture plays both in enabling the collaboration between these groups as well as enabling innovation itself.

Shaun McCarthy has previously written on the role of culture in innovation and one of the key takeaways from that whitepaper was that “organisations don’t innovate – people in organisations innovate”. The role of culture then is in creating and maintaining a system where this innovation can take place.

To explore this further we looked at a sample of 200 organisations who have measured their culture as well as a measure of agility or innovation, centered on how well the organisation identifies and responds to changes in its environment and opportunities or threats. It will come as no surprise that the more constructive organisations in this sample scored better on this ‘innovation/agility score’, with the top 10% of organisations outperforming the bottom 10% by 39% while the members of the top organisations also rated their organisation 41% higher on how well new programmes or procedures were implemented.

At a style level the strongest link is between a Self-Actualising culture and innovation, with a correlation of 0.79 while Achievement is close behind at 0.75. This suggests the ideal culture for innovation is one where people feel able to take risks and try new approaches without too much fear of repercussions. It’s also important that people believe their effort can make a difference and that they can effect change in their organisation. These two elements are key in both providing the motivation to look for new or innovative ways of doing things as well as providing an environment where people feel safe to experiment.

Our analysis also suggests that communication is very important to fostering innovation, both in ensuring effective communication around the organisation for cross-pollination of ideas but also the tone or focus of communication. In particular, it’s key that when something goes wrong, communication is focused on how we learn from mistakes rather than who to blame for them. The other important factor is ensuring communication from the frontline upward is effective, that people believe they will be listened to and it is safe to be honest rather than just telling people what they want to hear. This is vital since your frontline staff are closest to your customers and so ensuring their voice can be heard is imperative in enabling your organisation to identify and respond to changes in what those customers want.

So how do we work to develop this type of culture at a national level and help position Australia as an ‘innovation nation’ for the future?  Well at Human Synergistics our mission is “Changing the World – One Organization at a Time” and we truly believe that is how we as a community can effect change on a larger scale. The work starts with ensuring the culture within our individual organisations is a constructive one which supports innovation and building constructive relationships with other organisations, be they academia, government or industry.

Consider how your organisation is currently contributing to the broader culture of Australia, from the way it shapes your own people’s behaviour through to the impact on your customers or members of other organisations you interact with.

Next month we’ll look at how an individual leader can work to contribute to the innovative culture that our organisations and society will need to thrive in the future.


We’d love your feedback as well as any suggestions for questions you’d like answered from our data. Email your feedback to


Change Solutions

Tools & Simulations

Our suite of diagnostic tools can help you measure and develop every level of your organisation.

About Us

The Circumplex

Our ground-breaking measurement model has been used by millions of clients around the world.

Want to achieve genuine change & unlock growth within your business?

Contact Human Synergistics to find out how we can help you today!
Scroll to Top