CPDS Home Contact Direct Action

NOTE: The following are merely rough working notes ... on which comments would be valued.

What is enterprise?

In the broadest sense, enterprise involves organizing initiatives to take advantage of opportunities.

Enterprise is the alternative to reliance on central authorities (whether those in governments or corporate managements) to deal with new challenges and opportunities.

Why an Enterprise Institute?


Some arrangement to identify and develop options for more effective enterprise in Queensland seems necessary because:

  • major economic changes are giving rise to threats and opportunities (eg globalisation, intense and difficult competition that firms now face, rapid technological change, emergence of 'new' / knowledge economy, reduced prospects for capital intensive resources, potential emigration of major firms, currency risk, energy futures, cultural obstacles to East Asian opportunities);
  • past state growth has benefited from a high level of foreign investment (especially in resources). The latter has often proven unprofitable for investors in recent years for structural reasons. Thus (a) the resources sector needs to re-invent itself for investment to continue as in the past and (b) local enterprise capabilities will tend to be more critical in future relative to foreign investors;
  • Queensland's extraordinarily high level of reliance on foreign investment has both aided local access to some low-level knowledge, skills and technologies, and also limited the availability of high level enterprise skills;
  • Queensland traditionally practised a 'state corporatist' system of political economy (a system at times called agrarian socialism). Under this, the relationships amongst many 'private' enterprises were orchestrated through government (as shown by detailed regulation of agriculture, protection of Queensland managements through Treasury financial institutions, and facilitation of major foreign investor projects). Under this system the development of the mechanisms of a market economy was given little priority or discouraged. And unfortunately, despite rhetoric about changing this in the late 1980s and 1990s (eg in Quality Queensland, Leading State and similar economic strategies), little of practical relevance has been done to improve the situation (see Summary of a Review of Leading State;  Defects in Economic Tactics, Strategy and Outcomes; Queensland's Lack of Serious Public Policy: A Comment on Smart State)
  • Queensland traditionally suffers a 15 year lag in introducing system level economic changes due to the lack of institutions able to identify and develop of such capabilities in a timely way (eg innovation capabilities became the thrust of Smart State agenda in the late 1990s - though they had clearly become critically important by the early 1980s eg see Towards a Strategy for Technological Development in Queensland, Premier's Department (unpublished), 1983);
  • numerous organizations are seeking to raise the enterprising skills of their members and also of students - and there is scope to assist them to clarify their ideas about appropriate goals and to introduce international standard enterprising methods; 
  • marginal regions have been being left behind - giving rise to social stresses (often due to under-employment - poor quality or no jobs), political instability and somewhat distorted demands for public spending / taxing;
  • scope probably exists for growth of large decentralized cities (which have been much less successful in Australia than normal in developed economies) through a shift from reliance on comparative advantages (the existing advantages of regions - which provide limited market power to producers and low value-added) onto competitive advantages (the created advantages of organizations - which would allow higher value-added to be achieved and encourage investment).  Enhanced enterprise capabilities are critical to such a transformation;
  • some land and resources have been sterilized by native title arrangements, with similar constraints arising from environmental concerns (eg greenhouse; land salinity);
  • the market support available to enterprises affects their ability to create competitive advantages and achieve high productivity value-added. This can be upgraded by appropriate informed leadership (eg see Developing a Regional Industry Cluster: A Possible Generic Process).  the use of such methods would seem particularly relevant to globally-focused SMEs and to strong investment in agribusiness and minerals / energy clusters;
  • the political system: lacks technically sound raw material for policy; increasingly faces a zero-sum economic game which hampers decisions; appears as either ignorant or populist; and is thus losing credibility (see Comment on the Failure of Political Leadership);
  • public administration is ineffectual with: loss of professionalism; constipated machinery; poor morale; budget problems; non-viable institutions for 'commercial' competition; and ineffective economic programs (eg Smart State, strategic infrastructure);
  • a lack of enterprise skills and organization is THE major obstacle to development of an innovation system - which is now widely recognized as  as critical to economic diversification because it provides the opportunity to benefit from, rather than be hurt by, economic change;
  • effective business enterprise is hampered by: a restrictive employee relations system; and red-tape and compliance costs - perhaps because reform efforts over the past decade have often addressed the symptoms (excessive restrictive regulation), rather than the sources of these problems (eg the political mechanisms favoured in managing change);
  • human capabilities need to be raised (eg enterprise skills and high level knowledge and experience, reducing dependency culture and technical skills gap);
  • business associations reflect difficulties now facing firms in Queensland - and have identified concerns over issues such as: infrastructure; industrial relations; workers' compensation; government taxes and charges; training system; vision; trading hours; daylight savings and resource security. Other organizations highlight social and environmental concerns that need to be balanced.
What might an Institute do? An Enterprise Institute might be concerned with:
  • raising people's ability to organize initiatives to take advantage of opportunities individually (eg as employees, entrepreneurs or citizens) or as organizations (eg private firms, community groups or public agencies);
  • stimulating new arrangements in society, the economy and governments to support enterprise by individuals or organizations (eg arrangements which provide information about opportunities, finance, human skills, and a legal framework);
  • eliminating systemic obstacles to enterprise (eg dependency cultures; complex procedures established when central authorities organize initiatives; complex regulation); and with
  • identifying and publicizing ways to ensure that enterprising initiatives are likely to produce sound outcomes for society, the environment and the economy as a whole, as well as for the enterprising individual or organization.



Issues that would arise in establishing an Enterprise Institute would include:

  • mission;
  • scope (regional / national / international);
  • funding (eg by subscription, or by projects - and noting the massive increases in real community and business incomes (and thus in property values) which would result from enhanced enterprising capabilities in a particular region);
  • sponsoring entities / affiliations / memberships;
  • legal structure and governance (involving people who care about the outcome);
  • relationship with governments / multi-partisanship - recognizing especially the need to manage the political resistance from established interests that is inevitable when any change is made;
  • method of development (eg 'top-down' by creating a new organization or 'bottom up' by identification, mobilization and integration of existing individual and organizational capabilities in dealing with particular issues);
  • benefits for sponsors (short and long term);
  • mode of operation;
  • information functions (eg library, research, clearinghouse)
  • use of Internet;
  • achieving results - not talk alone ('action tank' versus 'think tank').

August 2001 (and subsequently modified)