John Sheridan

John is CEO of Digital Business insights!

Australia has voted. And we can all be winners.

We live in digital revolutionary times. The world is changing. The evidence is everywhere. And it impacts everything we do. So why do we act surprised when the digital revolution impacts politics?

The revolution has shifted power from “vendors” to “customers”. Permanently.

Simply replace “vendors” with politicians and “customers” with voters.

The politicians use digital tools to leverage what they have always done - for research, for marketing and communication, to push political messages through a range of digital media but they haven’t really understood what digital has done to change their customers.

The customers have changed. They are better informed. They are more collaborative. They are more knowledgeable. They are less engaged. They share their views with others. They complain. They make their own decisions.

Meanwhile, the pundits still view the 21st century with the eyes of the 20th century. The digital revolution is over here and politics is over here…quite separate.


You can’t have a digital revolution that doesn’t affect EVERYTHING. It all joins up.

And more and more people are waking up to this shift of power. Our traditional political leaders aren’t leading. They aren’t listening. And most are professional politicians, only interested in their reflection, reelection and superannuation.

Collaboration and shared decision making is the bread and butter of the 21st century. The digital revolution has delivered connection, information and collaboration to everybody.

Propaganda doesn’t work so well any more. The messages cannot be controlled in the way they could last century. A third of the people just voted for somebody other than the two main political parties.

The new world is not meeting expectations.

Is this a bad thing?

Not really. Because it opens the door for fresh ideas, opinions and independents, just when we need them to address the most disruptive issues that we have ever faced as a country.

This is what happens in every enlightened management team in the world. The more informed voices in the conversation the better.

Worldwide we have created a phalanx of professional politicians with little or no real world experience. And this has happened at the worse possible time. Brexit. US election. Australian election.

All slap bang in the middle of the biggest revolution that we will see in our lifetimes. The digital revolution.

Not to mention the chronic problems of a broken financial system, pollution, inequity, terrorism, underemployment and unemployment and lack of insightful leadership worldwide.

This is not the time for professional, political party leadership. This is the time for open door collaboration bringing the best minds into every discussion.

There is no real choice anyway. The major currents of digital change push relentlessly towards more connection, more collaboration and more integration. Not towards conflict, separation and domination of one extreme.

Good ideas can come from anywhere. And they do. From garages and dark rooms, and farms and forums and forests.

The old world way of running countries is broken.

Luckily for us, the digital revolution connects minds and bodies like an enormous electronic “band aid” offering a new mechanism for collaboration and engagement, discussion and decision.

So the real issues and problems we face can be creatively discussed online, because they don’t get discussed in parliament.

Never underestimate human beings. We are here only because we have adapted to change effectively over tens of thousands of years. We have evolved and we have learned to evolve and grow.

And the networks and connections of the digital revolution now spark and catalyse that change.

The three major communication channels of the 20th century have split into thousands of communication streams, rivulets, capillaries and networks of connections between individuals, bypassing the control of the media barons.

The power of information distribution has shifted from the few to the many. Commentary has become a creative commons.

We have learned to avoid advertising messages on television, radio and online. We have learned to avoid propaganda in much the same way. There are now many more sources of information than Rupert Murdoch.

And the digital revolution has made them accessible. And shared.

We must learn to trust the collective wisdom of human beings.

Messages will resonate or they will fail.

Election slogans have become meaningless.

What does “jobs and growth” mean at a time when we know 47% of jobs will disappear over the next 15 years due to increasing automation, robotisation and computerisation.

“Jobs and growth” How?

Tax cuts for large businesses will not solve this conundrum. Big business employs in the good times and fires in the bad times.

Jobs and growth has to come from a different, more diversified direction. And any strategy has to take big picture causes (globalisation, tax havens, digital revolution, climate change, education) properly into account or be judged meaningless.

It is not about this election, next election or any election…it is about the need for long-term thinking about our collective future.

Where is the plan that addresses the hollowing out of the well-paid, administrative jobs that provide the dollars for most Australians to buy goods and pay for services?

There is a big picture here that both parties seem to have ignored.

Unemployment is high but underemployment and part time employment is much, much higher. Trumpeting ABS figures on the employed while ignoring the underemployed misses the point.

Lipstick on the pig.

Real unemployment and underemployment is draining the lifeblood from Australia. Unemployed and underemployed people have fewer dollars to buy goods and pay for services, which impacts everyone.

And so it goes.

It all joins up.

And people know that the two party system isn’t working. So let’s try something else.

Greens. Independents. People with fresh points of view. People who will speak their own minds and not just parrot a media minder's crib sheet.

The hung parliament and the increased number of fresh minds in the senate is a good result not a bad result. Fertility not sterility. It will provide more ideas, more points of view, more thoughts and strategies and demand more discussion and negotiation for the best ideas to see the light of day.

When the world is as disrupted as it is today, we need a more flexible management system to deal with issues as they arise. By good fortune, now we have got it.

This isn’t a problem just facing government. It faces all organisations big and small. Every organisation has to become more responsive, more agile, more innovative or decline and fall.

Observation. Insight. Discussion. Negotiation. Collaboration. Action.

That is your digital strategy. That is your political strategy. That is your business strategy in a digital revolution that is changing the world.

Fixed ideology might have worked in the relative stability of the late 20th century world. It doesn't work so well in a world that shifts, pivots and changes from day to day. 

We need the very best ideas from both sides of politics. And the best ideas don’t belong to one party alone. We need the best ideas from the members in the senate. We need the best ideas from the independents.

And we now have the mechanism to get good ideas discussed, debated and deliberated. That is a good thing not a bad thing.

Respect. Trust. And negotiation.

The world won’t return to the way it used to be. Dream on. The Labor Party needs to think again. The LNP has to do the same thing. Review, modify and reinvent.

The 21st century is a world where collaboration and shared value are the only way to deliver success. And there are some pretty big implications in that statement.

Back to Professor Porter…

Businesses are perceived to prosper at the expense of society – “the 1%”. Governments are perceived to be doing nothing about this.

Businesses are seen as the major cause of social, environmental and economic problems. Governments are seen as doing nothing about this either. So what is government for?

That is a question being asked in every democracy on the planet.

There is an opportunity to transform thinking about the role of business and government in society.

Shared value offers broader and more inclusive approaches to economic value creation. Shared value will drive innovation, productivity and growth.

Business has a big role to play in creating shared value.

Government has a big role to play in setting an agenda, creating a vision, and establishing goals.

And we all have a big role to play in making this happen through our own initiatives, networks, connections and projects.

And we actually have more chance of doing this now with a hung parliament, expanded senate and a collaborative approach to government than we did before.

 The digital revolution has changed the conditions. The power (information and knowledge) has shifted from vendors to customers.

What that means to a political party in this new condition of diminished power is something they have to work out.


The new operational environment has few reference points.

Is it threatening? You bet.

But we are not without tools. We have dealt with the unknown before in a previous time and in a different space, but many of the factors are familiar.

We now need to regenerate and find courage and become merchant venturers and explorers again - willing to take intelligent risks - using the skills we have gained.

Australia has voted. And we can all be winners.

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Friday, 21 September 2018