Deflect, defer elsewhere and finally block – councillors answer to innovation

No one likes to be blocked on twitter. My first reaction to being blocked by William Owen-Jones, a local Councillor on the Gold Coast, was that he’s a sore looser and I had won. He’d just thrown in the towel. I was sort of rejoicing. However, there was more to this, I must have really hit a few bad nerves. This happens when cultures and what one values as important are worlds apart. Tweets_with_replies_by_William_Owen-Jones___WOJgoldcoast____Twitter

As can be seen in the photo, attached to this article, William Owen-Jones threw this blocking straight in my face. I never swore or called him bad names and tried very hard not to be rude. I asked questions and responded to tweets directed at me. I’m not really sure that this is acceptable behaviour for a public profile – which can be seen here.

One may also argue, that this blog post, is doing the same thing – throwing it back in his face. However, I’ve been thinking for a while, should I write it or not. Clearly, I’ve decided to do so, because the little online incident shows just how much work is required in the city I live presently, being the Gold Coast Australia, to change attitudes. There is no real tech/entrepreneurial culture here, outside of a small few pockets; whereby those presently classified as leaders have had little, to no real exposure to an innovative tech culture based around startups; nor to large groups of techies & programmer types.

Twitter is the place where you can communicate with persons that you normally wouldn’t. In the case of an elected officials, twitter acts as a conduit through which those persons can engage more readily to find out what constituents needs and wants are. But this works both ways in that constituents can find out the machinations behind the public office. When a public official blocks – it just says, don’t talk to me unless you agree with what I’m going to tell you. For intelligent and inquiring people, thats just so wrong.

I, like so many other techies, in Australia, have been amazed over the last decade or so at the very conservatism in our leaders, at all levels in public and private sectors, regarding technology and innovation. It was the later, that I was really pushing the councillor on. I wanted to know what the local council was doing and how they intended to respond to the recent statements by Australia’s new Prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull that innovation is at the forefront of Australia’s economic agenda – opinion piece can be found here. An excerpt from Malcolm’s speech

“We have to work more agilely, more innovatively, we have to be more nimble in the way we seize the enormous opportunities that are presented to us. We’re not seeking to proof ourselves against the future. We are seeking to embrace it,” Malcolm Turnbull said during ministry announcement speech.

What I found was that I was deflected to things such as a press release to run for office (yea right) Tweets_with_replies_by_William_Owen-Jones___WOJgoldcoast____Twitter

Or I was deferred to other levels of government.

But I wanted to know  “what the local Council policies were?” and “What were they doing?”. Unlike other councils around Australia e.g. Sunshine Coast , there appeared to be no policies. There also seemed to be no understanding of what or how local council, in particular the GCCC, will play a potential role (or like to see it).

It also became clear, that what innovation meant was not well understood by Will – he deferred to some BRW (Business Review Weekly), an Australian publication, definition as “change that adds value”. Thats just continuous improvement. I referred him to Clayton Christensen and disruptive innovation. However that was lost on him ….. no response.

There was no distinction between old school internal enterprise IT and innovation (R&D, entrepreneurship and commercialisation of novel IP) that I could perceive. They seemed to be the same thing??? This really surprised me.

I tried to suggest its time to stop following and to start leading. Clearly by pushing for answers and calling BS on him, I just highlighted his ignorance.

I feel quite strongly, after seeing so many colleagues and associates leave the Gold Coast, for greener pastures, that the GCCC needs to address this question of innovation in a more professional, thought out way. The existing approach is just ticking a few boxes. Old players are protecting turfs (and budgets and reputations).

Its time for some renewal. They can’t just keep blocking it out!!

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6 thoughts on “Deflect, defer elsewhere and finally block – councillors answer to innovation

  1. Local councils are, generally speaking in my experience, a blight in the concept of democracy. Inhabited by developers and political party wanna be’s and hacks, they do little but add cost and complexity, while not delivering much in the way of real local democracy, or any sort of plan, just someone to complain to when the neighbors dog knocks the bin over on Tuesday nights.
    They do however keep a lot of otherwise unemployables off the streets.
    However, from time to time you stumble across someone who is good, dedicated, and gives a lot without wanting anything more than their reasonable due in return, and they are Gold.

    • Here in Queensland the local councils, span the whole city. So Gold Coast City Council represents the half million plus people based here. The transient population is fairly high.

      At least in Brisbane the mayor seems to champion innovation (although the use of the word sometimes might appear enthusiastically) and digital technology. They are giving it a go at least http://www.grahamquirk.com.au/new-approach-to-drive-innovation-in-brisbane/.

      I have heard people say local councils are just glorified garbage collectors. But people don’t want to interact with three different levels of government all the time. If your from an techie background you hate process for the sake of it and meetings. These guys just thrive on it and going round in circles with no outcomes???

  2. My local council has 60,000 ratepayers, and the mayor is a developer as are 3 others on the council. Lot of development going on with little regard to the anything other than developer profit.
    The one next door, with whom I have a bit of contact though a non profit I chair, has 40,000 ratepayers, and has just opened a $20 million council chamber, approved budget $10 mill.
    Both are resisting the NSW government initiative to amalgamate as if their lives depend on it,
    Wonder why?

  3. Nick, from what you say it appears the Councillor’s action in blocking you is at best an over reaction. Sounds like he is much less thick-skinned than the PM – see the comments he cops and is unfazed by at his @TurnbullMalcolm account.

    That said, I know from working in government, Federal and State, that individuals, even those with good arguments, can get seriously frustrated trying to get answers and/or change via individual elected reps. For good or ill, governments take more notice of “representative bodies” than of individuals. And from what I have seen of local government, that level is no exception to that rule or practice, although there are particular issues about transparency at the local level.

    One body that has, as far as I can tell, a good relationship with the GCCC on these matters is the IT Forum Gold Coast, which is recognised by local and State governments as the umbrella organisation for the ITC industry on the coast. That would be where I would be seeking to influence public policy, by joining if you are not already a member and pitching in to help the few volunteers to do a lot of good work without public fanfare. Of course, that might not appeal to you, but it is an available option.

    • @Des the IT Forum Gold Coast gets too much attention. The reason we setup Silicon Beach Gold Coast a few years ago, is that they just didn’t represent the innovative techie community. This was evident by the huge uptake we had at that time and great turnout to our events IT Forum Gold Coast were bogged down in internal bureaucracy and appear not to have a defined purpose. Such that they jump on everything.

      The bigger issue I see, is that this continued focus on the IT Forum Gold Coast just puts Innovation (R&D, entrepreneurship and commercialisation of novel IP) into the same basket as traditional IT. Thus causes no distinction. I suppose its a bit like throwing investment bankers into a room with accountants – they just don’t mix do they??

  4. Hi Nick,

    you may want to consider attending Big Blue Sky Nov 5th. We have all the people and such in place to seriously disrupt the GC from the fringe, rather than wait for politics to come on board. What I have learned from years in the field is that it takes a community to come together to create real change. This is our aim. No more talk, considered and experienced action.

    Christine

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