Anyone who has spent time living in the cities of Asia knows one thing for sure. Its fast. How you talk, how you do business, how you get to know people and how you make decisions. That sense of urgency is so ingrained it’s even on the street. Despite the 80% humidity Singaporeans actually walk faster than anyone else in the world and it’s only happened in the last 20 years, indicative of a cultural and economic shift happening across Asia. As an expat living in Mumbai, Shanghai, Singapore or Bangkok you could be forgiven for thinking there is a race everyone else is running that you don’t know about, a goal they are collectively striving for. That goal exists, it’s a relentless pursuit of progress. 

What’s setting this pace? Hans Rosling eloquently highlighted the significant shifts that are occurring in his book Factfullness. According to Rosling rather than ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ the world should be divided into 4 economic categories defined by average income per person ranging from $2 per day at Level 1 to $64+ at Level 4. 

In Australia it took us almost 100 years to get from a Level 2 to a Level 4 economy. In stark comparison India, Indonesia and China are set to made that move in under 30 years which is occurring in one person’s lifetime! With such a rapid shift in people’s daily lives, change and disruption is commonplace, it’s business as usual, it even impacts the pace you walk.

 

 

This is something we as a linear growth economy have not experienced. Our stability now sets us at a disadvantage, we are a comparatively slow-moving economy with single digit growth. We are becoming the legacy business and we’re about to be disrupted by our more agile competitors.

The environment is so dynamic in Asia right now even the well-known disruptors can’t keep up. Uber has been driven out of Singapore by Grab, Amazon’s expansion plans have crawled to a snail’s pace in South East Asia because of Lazada, AirBnB has all but stalled in China due to local sharing economy brand Tuija. Even the most customer centric companies in the world fall behind more nimble innovators if they lose sight of the customer and don’t act fast. And these disruptive companies have their eyes set on expansion.

If we are to compete and ensure our West Australian economy rides the next wave of growth we need a step change in the speed and ambition of how we operate as customer experience & marketing teams.

 

Why should we compete?

It might seem daunting that this is all happening in our neighbourhood but there is also significant upside. The world’s biggest ever economic migration is happening in China, India and South East Asia with the growing middle class. The spending power and new markets that come with this are almost unimaginable. To contextualise this only 8% of the Chinese population has a passport, just imagine how big the travel market is going to get in the next five years as that number increases, and India and Indonesia catch up. The growth of Asia can have a positive impact locally and provide huge markets that Western Australian companies can tap into - best of all we’re on the same time zone as most of Southeast Asia and many parts of North Asia, so we have a natural advantage for doing business digitally.

 

How we compete?

My initial perception is that people in Western Australia are ready for change, ready for a challenge and a new phase of growth, one more sustainable than the boom years. They are ready to create their own opportunities and start creating new products and services fit for the global economy. Smart entrepreneurs are already making headway, we only need to look at the success of WA based startups like Healthengine and Power Ledger to see that when we give it a crack we really do have the potential to win. 

What is essential to create a culture of innovation?

  • 10x Thinking - This is the practice of shifting perspective by looking at how you could grow 10 times your existing goal as opposed to incrementally. This shift in perspective forces you to become more innovative in your approach. Grab didn't beat Uber at its own game in Singapore by hoping to steal 10% of its market share.

  • Diverse, High Performing Talent - Diversity of thought (i.e. multiple perspectives) is increasingly being cited as a critical component to innovation and long-term company success. During my time in Asia I met some of the best young talent of my career and I’m convinced this is where the next generation of innovators will come from, whether it’s programmatic, data science, creative, strategy or planning, there is a wealth of talented, motivated and energised people graduating from universities across Asia. How do we start positioning Perth not just as a place to study but as a place to start your career in marketing, media and technology?

  • Performance Mindset – What gets measured gets improved. We walk a bit slower in WA, but we need to raise the bar and start building a performance-oriented marketing culture – one with worldly ambition. This starts with measuring the right things, identifying where the growth will come from and moving with the speed that is necessary to compete with our global counterparts. Ask yourself – are your targets ambitious enough? Do they create the need to innovate or just achieve incremental improvement?

 

 

There is a wealth of opportunity at home and abroad, but we have to get hungry. We have to shift our perspective and reach higher. My contribution to the race will be helping Western Australian companies get that hunger, helping them become innovative, data driven and performance oriented in their marketing approach.