How do you run a workforce that will predominantly consist of freelancers and robots? This emerging reality is posing a real challenge for corporate Australia as new focus is placed on startups and innovation to drive the future economy.

In conjunction with AGSM @ UNSW Business School, The Chifley Masterclass series brought together academics from UNSW and leaders in the startup and innovation space to tackle this complex topic. The event was expertly moderated by AGSM Executive in Residence and former Facebook MD ANZ Stephen Scheeler.

In session one Tim Fung, founder and CEO of Airtasker, and Professor Nick Wailes, Associate Dean (Digital & Innovation) at UNSW Business School, explored smart disruption and the importance of developing a strong organisational culture in the face of increasing automation.

UNSW Business School graduate Tim Fung says, “One of the biggest issues we are facing at Airtasker is creating jobs for humans. There is so much work being automated now that we have a challenge. How do we keep people using their skills to make money and bring purpose to their lives?”

“In an emerging workplace which features full-time employees, freelancers and robots, creating a great company culture poses an interesting set of challenges,” Nick suggests. “You need to create systems that allow freelance digital talent to plug and play into your company’s systems.”

As a global player in the “sharing economy” Tim was asked how he decided that Airtasker was a good idea. “When you have an idea it should be crazy. You should just jump off the cliff – you can always build a parachute before you hit the bottom.”

Session two explored how traditional bricks and mortar companies are approaching digital innovation and tapping into data to make better decisions. NAB Executive General Manager Digital & Innovation Jonathan Davey believes that the banking industry is changing and being driven by customer preferences. “If we are to support their needs we need to build solutions that resonate with them in a simple way.”

AGSM Fellow Jeffrey Tobias added that historically, the approach to innovation taken by big businesses was based on product, but has evolved to take a more human-centred approach. “Corporate Australia understands the ‘what’, but they are grappling with the ‘how’ when it comes to innovating services.”

“The retail sector has been heavily disrupted by the rise of digital,” according to tech entrepreneur George Freney, the man behind Booodl, who rounded off the series. He discussed the enormous potential that data can play in helping retailers make informed decisions. As the brains behind connecting shoppers to physical stores selling what they want he believes that retailers need to use data to create a unique experience that will motivate customers to visit a physical store.

He went on to add that it is important for retailers to understand the intent of the consumer and match it online and in the physical store. “We need to use data to create a unique experience that will make it faster and easier for people to visit a store more often.”

UNSW Professor Valentyn Panchenko agreed. “It’s one thing to collect data, it’s another to make use of it. We have to increase our capacity to analyse and make use of the insights we can extract from the data.”

So what can we learn from startups and big business when it comes to digital disruption?

  • Focus on developing a strong organisational culture with purpose.
  • Organisations are changing focus from product to a more human-centred approach.
  • Create a customer-centric business based on insights gained from data.

Hear more on smart disruption from Tim Fung and Nick Wailes here. To find out more visit AGSM.