Cultural change needs revised thinking and renewed acceptance

Nicole Bittar

Being the change you want to see in the world starts by broadening your collective outlook. The Counterpoint Conversations — Cultural Change Unlocks Innovation whitepaper centres on the importance of implementing long-term cultural change and how committing to diversity and inclusion fosters sustainable success in government and business. Calls for stronger organisational culture will lead to better employee outcomes —thereby improving performance that benefits consumers and the public.

However, maintaining momentum throughout a slow-burn process of change is often the biggest challenge.

The Counterpoint Conversations podcast program facilitated a sequence of engaging discussions with senior and influential figures from the public and private sectors, ultimately finding that true diversity comprises tuning into many voices as part of the solution. Companies with growth potential must identify and incorporate these views into their business strategies.

“We underestimate how much change has happened and how far we’ve come. Sometimes I feel we’re taking two steps forward and one step back. It’s important to keep the momentum up,” says Australian Research Integrity Commission chair Patricia Kelly.

Ms Kelly reflected on the public sector in 1975, only a handful of years after the demise of the notorious ‘marriage bar’, which prohibited the employment of married women within the civil service. “It wasn’t surprising that there weren’t many women leaders, but the sorts of behaviours that were accepted back then are just unthinkable today,” she says.

A key pillar of the of the Counterpoint: Women in Government program, produced by in partnership with Verizon, the Counterpoint Conversations five-part podcast series was based on the ways women from the private sector engaged with their government ‘counterpoints’ to determine how we can draw on the best practices from each area.

These conversations were moderated by InnovationAus publisher Corrie McLeod, with a broad theme emerging: ‘Cultural change unlocks innovation’.

So, how does cultural change occur? The embedding of diversity and inclusion outcomes in organisational structure is a great start. A change in mindset towards critical behaviour for increased safety at work and home also extends to the need for a holistic commitment towards equality.

“Cultural change that is done well and sticks — in my observations —comes from the type of leadership that uses language carefully and has effective conversations,” says Buildcorp principal Josephine Sukkar AM.

This requires fresh ways of thinking to provide unique and innovative perspectives. Turning to the oldest continual culture on Earth, which prospered for 40,000 years amid the harshest conditions, could breed unconscious bias and a groupthink collectivity.

“Our governance systems and ways of living with land have supported a rich and healthy and vibrant culture that still exists today. We can explore how the cultural insights of Indigenous knowledge systems can be translated into cultural standards and protocols,” says the chief executive officer of Old Ways, New, Professor Angie Abdilla.

In economic terms, exploring different schools of thought, focusing on harmony with the environment and creating systems of balance and sustainability are paramount when facing the challenges of modern, post-industrial economies and environments.

Technology plays a key determinant for how diversity representation in organisations of all sizes benefits the varied approaches to thinking, input and problem solving.

ANZ Bank’s Chief Information Security Officer, Lynwen Connick, says the borderless nature of online commerce and social interaction means the cyber industry needs people from all walks of life to understand and study security. The intimate connection of people in cyberspace requires strong diversity of genders, skills and cultures.

“We need people with the right skills. We need a diversity of people who bring different views and ideas into the picture,” Ms Connick says.

Also framing these conversations are the new realities of security and defence. Cybersecurity is now a part of everyday life and is as much a communications and engagement challenge as it is a technical one.

Banishing stereotypes also clarifies misconceptions and opens the door to diversity and inclusion.

Added to this is the notion that technological proficiency and effective communication are incompatible. The research proves otherwise.

“One of the things we need to do is break down this stereotype of the hoodie and green screen and the ones and zeroes, and even the thought that you can’t be a good communicator if you’re good at technology,” says Verizon’s Managing Associate for General Counsel & International Regulatory, MJ Salier.

Likewise, co-founder and former chief scientist for BCAL Diagnostics and head of MedTech and BioTech for Cicada Innovations, Dharmica Mistry, found when transitioning from a career in science to business that challenging preconceptions and stereotypes unlocks innovation.

Furthermore, the need for real-world applications of exciting, new ideas serve to inculcate cultural change.

“You never know who your research might be relevant to, so being able to make your findings accessible to a broad audience helps identify new applications for it that you haven’t even thought of,” says Ms Mistry.

The Counterpoint Conversations whitepaper was produced by in partnership with Verizon, as part of the Counterpoint: Women in Government series. The whitepaper is available to read and download here.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment

Related stories