By John Sheridan >>

AUSTRALIA is being impacted on two fronts – by trade threats and by digital disruption. 

Our reliance on selling one product 'minerals' into one market 'China' leaves us highly exposed. Relying too heavily on minerals, food and education as our major exports, leaves us vulnerable to political whims and fancies, trade wars and real wars – none of which are controllable by any Australian government.

And digital disruption has not gone away. The impact of over 20 disruptive technologies on jobs and businesses continues. We have barely yet woken up to the threat, let alone created any real strategies to deal with the impacts.

We have to defend our families, children, grandchildren, businesses and regions against trade threats AND digital disruption.

Which means diversification -- both in the creation of products and services, as well as in expanding our overseas markets. 

Turnbull was right. We need an innovation nation.  

We already have the potential for an innovation nation. We are just not managing the resources we have -- the innovators in our towns, cities and regions, in our schools, universities and TAFEs. In our brains, our eyes and our hands.

Selling dirt to China is not the only tool in the toolbox. 

We have many others. And we have to use them.

For we live in precarious times.

In Australia, it makes strategic sense to significantly increase the number of trade partners we engage with and to diversify production across a much wider range of products and services. We cannot afford to become captive to trading partners with a very different view of 'shared value'. Selling just one big egg from one big basket.


We need to mitigate risk. Quickly.

According to Roy Morgan Research, unemployment in March 2019 was 10.9 percent, with another 9.7 percent of the workforce underemployed. So 20.6 percent of Australians are now either unemployed or underemployed. Roy Morgan measures real unemployment in Australia, not the perception of unemployment, like the ABS.

Currently, digital disruption and its impacts on jobs is viewed a bit like climate change. The impacts are off somewhere in the future. Which is correct. But that future is closer than you might think.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D printing, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Cloud services, BIM, GPS, 5G, Cryptocurrency, Cybersecurity, Drones, Digital Identity, Holochain, IP protection, Mobility, Nanotechnology, Robots, Solar and Battery Storage, Virtual Reality, Amazon, airbnb, Freelancer, Uber etc, not forgetting climate change and “fake news” all present threats to jobs in Australia and across the world, as well as opportunity.

And jobs do not exist in a vacuum.

Employers offer jobs. And employers make people redundant. And big businesses answer to shareholders wanting dividends and profit. And small businesses have to pay wages.

And the current myth that employers won’t replace people with technology, but will retain workers and just reallocate tasks is just a wish and a dream. The reality is that technology comes in the door and people go out.

Even in organisations that have more than enough money to redeploy people if they choose to, such as banks – they don’t. The ANZ has cut 5,250 employees. The National Australia Bank has retrenched 6,000 employees.

The big four banks in Australia are expected to shed up to 40,000 jobs over five years. Some new jobs in technology and analytics will be created, but overall it’s net job loss. Telstra is cutting 8,000 jobs. Optus is cutting 400. And so on.

So even in companies with big profits, people are not being redeployed, they are being unemployed.

This trend will continue.

And in the next 10 to 15 years, another 4.5 million jobs will be threatened as AI and other disruptive technologies really take hold. Which for our children and grandchildren in Australian schools is going to be a big challenge.

So we need to start understanding, managing and pushing back against this threat, before it becomes a promise. 

Youth unemployment is a problem. 'Over 40 years old' unemployment is a problem. Job transition is a problem. 


We must defend.

We have an abundance of productive industries in Australia. And an abundance of resources. We have the capacity to reframe what we do and where we focus our efforts. We have a world-class innovation engine in CSIRO/Data61 and our universities. 

We must attack.

We can add value to products and services through research, design, branding and marketing. But we have to start with a 'big picture' vision, joining the pieces of the puzzle. Bringing it all together.

The opportunity is there in front of us. (“We are a big country, with a small population but we are ratshit at collaboration.”) Only by collaborating and showcasing what we (Australia) can offer to the world will we be successful.

The tools and solutions are on the table. We just need to pick them up and use them.

And…a lot of people are going to miss out. Even more than before.

Working with partners we must explore new options to address the issue of exclusion. 

Not everyone has the skills or capabilities to benefit from digital disruption. We need to establish a framework of opportunities that recognise individual contributions in different ways. We have to move our thinking beyond 'effort = wage' to Universal Basic Income, Tokenisation. New job creation. Reward meaningful roles and activities. Shared value.

Thinking about solutions to this issue has barely begun. But thinking has begun. It just needs to go further and faster.

There is still a lot more to be done. And we have hardly started. 

The RED Toolbox, the ED Toolbox and the Australian Innovation Showcase are tools to defend and attack trade threats and digital disruption.

Join the platform and let’s see what we can do. Collaboratively.

John Sheridan is CEO of Digital Business insights, an organisation based in Brisbane, Australia, which focuses on helping businesses and communities adapt to, and flourish in, the new digital world. He is the author of Connecting the Dots and getting more out of the digital revolution. Digital Business insights has been researching and analysing the digital revolution for more than 15 years and has surveyed more than 50,000 businesses, conducting in-depth case study analysis on more than 350 organisations and digital entrepreneurs. Now DBi is turning that research into action through a series of digital business development platforms, the first of which launched in 2016, the Manufacturing Toolbox. DBi has now also launched a series of international online trade showcases, promoting Australian goods and services to specific countries and promoting use of those showcases in those countries. The first, just launched, is the Australia-Taiwan Trade Showcase. Coming soon are trade showcases for Japan, Hong Kong-China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and India. Australia's Regional Economic Development (RED) Toolbox has now been launched at

THE Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) has released the percentage breakdowns of small business owners for the top 20 marginal electorates, in the lead up to the Federal Election.

Nationwide, small business owners make up 14 percent of voters and are an important part of marginal electorates, according to COSBOA CEO Peter Strong.

"COSBOA knows that small business people do not vote solely on small business issues but are influenced by their personal situations as well," Mr Strong said.

“With a Sensis survey released last week showing that 35 percent of small business owners haven’t yet decided who they are voting for, it’s more important than ever for parties and candidates to recognise the voting power of small business owners," he said.

"For example, in the electorate of Wentworth, NSW where the margin is 1 percent, they make up 22.19 percent of the voters. In Corangamite, Victoria, where the margin is 0.03 percent, they make up 10 percent. In Herbert, Queensland, with a margin of 37 votes, they make up 9.25 percent of voters, roughly 10,200 people." 

Mr Strong said employees of small businesses also have a vested interest in small business policies and understand that their jobs depend upon the business being successful.

"The relationship between small business employers and their employees is normally very good and, whether we like it or not, employees can be influenced by the opinions of their employer," he said.

“The best way to get a small business vote is to talk to us as people not just as businesses. We value time with our family; the removal of complexity; the ability to focus on our business and our employees not on unnecessary compliance; and on fairness in dealings with big businesses and governments.

"We want to run our businesses and stay healthy. Not all of us want to grow to become a large business but we do want the economy to be stable; and those that do want to grow, want access to finance and support when needed,” Mr Strong said.

COSBOA will publish a comparison of policies from the major parties prior to the May 18 Federal Election.

The top 20 marginal electorates with the percentage of small businesses:



% Margin 

% Small Businesses


















































































MASTER BUILDERS Australia has launched a campaign to give its members and the building and construction industry a voice at the imminent Federal Election. 

“The Strong Building, Strong Economy campaign will ensure that the issues that matter to our industry are front and centre and that all political parties and candidates know which policies our members support and oppose,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said.

“The campaign calls for the support of Master Builders’ policy ‘wish list’ to back small business, stop the bullying on building sites, boost house building activity and train more apprentices,” she said.

“Our Election Scorecard will inform our members across the country about how the major parties respond. 

“Advertising will be rolled out across the country opposing the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and an increase in capital gains tax and restrictions on negative gearing,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Both of these issues are of the utmost importance to our members -- the builders and tradies that underpin a strong economy in cities, towns and regions around the country.  They are both long standing policy positions of the organisation and we have an obligation to our members to stand up for what is important to them. 

“Union bullying in the construction sector is not tolerated anywhere else in the community but unions persist in using bullying tactics to hold the industry and the community to ransom. Union bullying drives up construction costs by 30 percent, forcing the community to pay more for schools and hospitals and other taxpayer funded infrastructure.

“Doubling capital gains tax and restrictions on negative gearing will mean that up to 42,000 new homes are not built, up to 32,000 less jobs will be created and that up an $11.8 billion hit on the building industry will occur,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Our industry makes a huge contribution to a strong economy so Master Builders does not want to see economic growth put at risk by policies that give a green light to union bullying or result in less new homes being built.

“Both major parties boast of their plans for a strong economy. They must acknowledge that as the nation’s second largest industry, largest provider of full time jobs and with more than 370,000 small business, a successful building and construction industry is fundamental to achieving economic growth and higher living standards,” Ms Wawn said. 

“The Strong Building Strong Economy Campaign provides an opportunity for our members “voice” to be heard, the voice of an industry that is integral to the future success of our nation."


By Chris Hare >>

AS ADVANCEMENTS in technology plough ahead and the business world becomes increasingly interconnected, leadership is now more complex than ever. With this rapid and constant change, it can be challenging to get executives on the same page when it comes to navigating business strategy.  

In fact, almost all businesses have strategy struggles. Of course there are some who are unable to think about next quarter, much less next year, but even companies with an enunciated strategy often lack alignment.

The problem is that the executives either do not agree with the strategy or have contrary views of what it means.  That is because most strategies focus on broad financial outcomes and product or project milestones, leaving the interpretation of what each function needs to do to each executive.

Leadership must move beyond vision statements and financial forecasting into modelling scenarios that bring together the two key elements of business: the activities that underpin success and the people required to make it happen. 


The key vehicle responsible for executive strategy is the workforce, so leaders must become better at intelligent uses of technology for scenario planning.  This means using Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) to achieve clarity and align the leadership team to execute strategy effectively.

According to a recent study by Accenture, only 55 percent of executives say their organisation does scenario planning at best annually. The same study also shows that 61 percent of executives say they are not well prepared to change the workforce skill and job mix to transition into a digital business.

Also, according to a CFO study by Deloitte, for many companies, the top three risk areas in strategy execution are:

Failure to adequately translate the strategy from high-level ambition to specific actions the organisation must take to make that ambition a reality;

Failure to appropriately adapt the strategy when conditions change; and

Failure to put in place the organisational capabilities required to sustain the strategy after it is enacted.

These findings are no surprise, as many large listed companies are faced with major misalignment in business strategy execution between the CEO, COO and CFO.


A common theme uncovered by SWP is the misalignment across the leadership team on what capability and capacity change is required to effectively execute the business strategy. 

This is a huge risk for investors and boards when trying to assess management’s ability to deliver its own plan.

Dynamic scenario modelling of SWP is a powerful tool in bringing executives around the table and driving invaluable conversation.  This is because it takes executives through a joint conversation on critical activities that are required for plan delivery. 

They are comfortable debating BAU (business as usual) volumes and potential business disruption if a model is in front of them.  Even better when it then denominates the outcome in something they all understand, people. 

Knowing the degree of change in people required helps the business determine how realistic the strategy is and what is going to be required to make it happen.

As in Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski, “a managers’ inner model never mirrors reality . . .  it is always a construct. The scenario process displayed through modelling is aimed at these perceptions inside the mind of a decision maker. By presenting other ways of seeing the world, decision scenarios give managers something very precious: the ability to re-perceive reality, leading to strategic insights beyond the mind’s reach”.

This dynamic really aligns the workforce with the business and with finance. It provides a quantitative basis for intricately understanding the workforce, facilitates great discussions and most importantly creates a call to cohesive action to ensure successful strategy execution.


Unlike other methods, SWP is particularly useful as a foundation for driving clear conversations.  It articulates workforce demand and enables the businesses to see the necessary workforce to align with strategy.

With the workforce being not only the largest cost for most organisations, and arguably the biggest asset, the need for the C-suite to intricately understand and proactively plan for the future is critical.

Executives who fail to employ SWP will lag behind, as SWP provides a clear mandate for businesses building a future view of the workforce. This is even more critical in the face of the future of work, technology and automation, where understanding the capability and retraining opportunities will be needed to ensure organisations remain competitive.

However, the roadmap laid out by the external lens provided by future of work is useless if companies do not consider their own context.  They must integrate the external view with their own business planning and labour composition to understand how to achieve. 

Only SWP brings these elements together.


The value of being able to quantitatively understand workforce needs cannot be underestimated.

If you were to ask executives if they knew what workforce their organisation needs today, it is likely the answer would be no. The majority of companies are flying blind, rolling out business initiatives that they often don’t even know they can execute.

Being able to identify the value of different initiatives in the context of critical business drivers gives executives the insight to prioritise and plan. By integrating financial principles, SWP ensures every decision is commercially grounded.  This enables executives to make decisions that align workforce initiatives and optimise their success.

SWP enables executives to nuance the dynamics of workforce supply and demand to proactively determine the best initiatives across not only the traditional build, buy, borrow suite, but also which segments they need to focus on for retention, what they should eliminate in a coherent context and which productivity and efficiency initiatives will have the most impact and where.


Executives who employ SWP have an informed view of business strategy versus the workforce, integrating all elements in a dynamic and predictive construct to centre the conversation on strategy, planning and action.

It is with these insights, executives are able to align their focus in delivering imperatives in the constantly changing contexts their company operate within.

The power of decision scenarios as a critical strategic business tool is the greatest advantage of SWP.

Take the case of Royal Dutch Shell Group of companies. Their system of scenario planning is acknowledged to be one of the best strategic planning systems used today and has been credited for turning around its business performance.

At Shell, planning for the future is done through scenarios, which not only enables superior decision making, but also facilitates alignment between management teams who are all perceiving things through their own lens.

SWP crystallises the strategy and actions needed to achieve the desired outcome. Through dynamic scenario workshops, SWP forces a shared view of the more detailed activity projections and creates an understanding of the resourcing and capability change required to achieve.

With technology already changing the way we work, which will only keep changing exponentially, it is essential for executives to plan for the future of their workforce now.

By building this understanding with SWP, executives are better equipped to align business strategy and execution.


About the author and QHR

Chris Hare is the co-founder and director of Quantitative HR (QHR), a business leading the market in applying the latest strategic workforce planning and HR analytics approaches to enable clients to unlock the value of their human capital. QHR translates client business strategies into workforce implications to form commercially-grounded, targeted action plans. QHR has worked with clients such as Telstra, Optus, Transport for NSW, ING and Ausgrid.


By Leon Gettler >>

Everyone has a courier horror story. Misplaced parcels, drivers running late, deliveries on the wrong day and bad drivers.

Zoom2U aims to change that. It’s a user friendly delivery platform that connects businesses and individuals to a fast and reliable community of couriers.

With Zoom2U, people can track where the parcel is in real time via GPS technology. It also provides the client with the driver’s contact details. 

A fast growing start-up, Zoom2U operates in all the Australian major cities with plans to expand to the big regional cities.

Founder and CEO Steve Orenstein said it was created to give the customers a much better delivery experience.

“So being able to see the live location of the driver, being able to communicate with the driver as well, so being able to call them,” Mr Orenstein told this week’s edition of Talking Business.

“It’s moving away from the traditional problems people have with courier companies arriving and you never knowing when they turn up.”

He said all people have to do is go to the website and register their delivery request. The request would then go to the network of drivers. The GPS technology would allow the customer to see when the driver would be arriving.

Zoom has had massive growth, registering 600,000 deliveries, all ordered online and delivered within a three hour period.

He said over 50,000 customers have registered with Zoom2U.

Mr Orenstein said Zoom2U is particularly popular with e-commerce businesses. It works particularly well with fashion and electronics.

“There are simple traditional businesses, like the printing company and the legal firm that always have a need to move something around quickly and then there’s the general need for individuals who have forgotten something or need to get a passport delivered,” Orenstein said.

He said Zoom2U has 1300 drivers using the platform and there are 12,000 on the wait list, all of them drawn to it by the flexibility of being able to choose what jobs to take and when they can work.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


By Balder Tol >>

AS LEADERSHIP guru Simon Sinek once said, “When people are financially invested, they want a return – when people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute”.

This statement has never rung truer for modern-day employees who want to do the type of work that contributes to their companies in a meaningful way. A salary and stability are not enough to make workers feel engaged in the 2019 workplace.

In a study by Deloitte last year, a sample of millennial employees were asked what would make them happier in the workplace. About 81 percent cited having meaning in their work, 72 percent said feeling valued, and 64 percent wanted a good company culture.

Provision of these needs is crucial now, more than ever, for the Australian modern workforce.

Community is one of the best ways to meet these desires. If strong social bonds are formed, workers are often happier and get more value from their day to day. Aspects such as building design, social events and community spaces can have a profound effect on this. 

At WeWork, our primary focus is to provide a community to all of our members. While we’re known for creating dynamic places for people to work, our true success comes from combining multiple factors that encourage interaction, incorporating community areas, social events and networking.

We believe that companies of all sizes can transform their culture and gain the best results by taking a similar, multi-faceted approach.


Effective workplace design is central to community creation. Given we spend as much time at the office as we do at home, physical environments need to inspire to bring out the best in people.

The modern worker has come to define themselves by their work, and the aesthetic feel of their workspace needs to match their aspirations.

WeWork addresses this with modern furniture and artwork that give members a space where they actively choose to collaborate and socialise.

That said, community does not come from design alone. At a time when people are easily engrossed in devices, additional social encouragement is needed.

Weekly gatherings such as thought-provoking talks and networking events can allow employees to look beyond their daily networks to form new connections.

According to the Australian Psychological Society, 62 percent of young adults lack companionship, meaning workplaces have an opportunity to expand social circles to encourage overall happiness.

Staff that feel part of a community are more likely to be happier and more engaged in their work overall.

Socialising aside, more interaction can also lead to new business opportunities.

More than free food, WeWork’s weekly ‘Thank God It’s Monday’ breakfasts have enabled 70 percent of members to collaborate in some way, with more than 50 percent doing business together directly.

While emphasis on collaboration is key, spaces for privacy are also needed for productivity. 

Open plan offices encourage interaction but are not the best option for work that requires focus. Soundproofed alcoves provide comfortable sanctuaries for conducting private calls and video chats, while wellness rooms allow workers to pray, meditate, or just gain some privacy.


Despite the size and type of a business, younger workers have the same desire for community.

While freelance individuals or new start-ups are actively trying to expand their immediate network, large organisations are realising the importance of making their workforce more socially driven. Some 84 percent of those surveyed believe access to WeWork makes them more productive, too.  

All kinds of companies are creating technology hubs to inspire their developers to offer innovative new solutions.

Headquartered in North Ryde, NSW, Microsoft has a large private office at WeWork in Sydney, offering their teams a central location for meetings and improving collaboration across the business and with the wider community.

As WeWork has grown, enterprise customers now make up almost 30 percent of its customer base. Large companies are discovering the value offered by modern, city-based workplaces.

Practically speaking, creating a new community and aesthetic is tough, which is why so many businesses are yet to change.

Collaborative workplaces are taking care of time-consuming basics like high quality wi-fi, cycling facilities, social staff and drinks, making a better employee experience accessible to all. 


Today’s workforce needs positive reasons to stay loyal, ranging from financial benefits to having exciting work and individual growth opportunities.

While companies will always have to lay the concrete aspects of the work itself, WeWork’s swift expansion comes from its ability to enhance the daily work experience.

By leaning on WeWork, organisations of all sizes have seen employee engagement improve through new friendships, business partnerships and an increased sense of belonging.

Balder Tol is the general manager of WeWork Australia. WeWork was founded in SoHo New York city in 2010 and today provides shared workspaces for technology startup subculture communities, and services for entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, small businesses and large enterprises. WeWork has workspace office locations in 554 cities in 97 countries.


By Leon Gettler >>

IMAGINE PEOPLE in a community engaging in peer-to-peer trading of energy. Or high schools that have 50 kilowatt systems on their roofs that sell their energy to parents during the school holidays.

All of this is the work of Enosi, a not-for-profit foundation set up to disrupt big power companies with community energy programs. 

The system is designed for people to trade energy between them before the retailer comes in. This is done through an online service with everyone in the community agreeing to trade energy at a price they choose.

Steve Hoy, the CEO of Enosi, told this week’s Talking Business podcast that Enosi is all about decentralising the energy market, and giving it back to the community.

Mr Hoy said the price is determined by the community.

“You might be trying to arbitrage the fee you normally get from your retailer and the normal price people pay, or you might try for something different like making a donation to the community,” Mr Hoy said.

“Or you might pay for someone else’s energy as some sort of commercial proposition.”

He said a number of retailers, like Melbourne-based Energy Local and Enova Energy out at Byron Bay, which focuses on community energy, had signed up to the platform.

He said while the sector had been deregulated, with generation separated from retailing and distribution of electricity, it had in effect been re-regulated and there had been a re-aggregation producing oligopolies.

“We need to lower the barriers for the small guys,” he said.

Enosi also promotes renewable energy.

“Frankly the big retailers are not really welcoming solar. It’s not in their interests as large oligopolies. They lose something like 40 percent of their revenues for every household,” Mr Hoy said.

”But for small retailers, this is a way to encourage innovation and to get some mind-share.”

He said the platform works anywhere worldwide where there is a deregulated model. Enosi has now been talking to retailers in Japan and the US.

The company uses blockchain technology to make trades transparent and ensure the accounting stacks up.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


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