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Innovation is a team sport

Published 2 May 2017

Words like "disruption" and "transformation" get bandied about a lot these days, along with their more prosaic cousins "change" and "innovation". With Australians now spending more time in front of a screen each day than they do sleeping, we are seeing the shift as consumers choose "digital first" to manage both their personal and professional lives.

Organisations have seen the writing on the wall and are seeking new ways to adapt to this changing environment in pursuit of ever-greater efficiencies and operational effectiveness.

While there is a certain mythology about the lone visionary, the genius who sees the future and brings it into realisation through dogged persistence and sheer force of personality. We think of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison or Gandhi. Apple famously eulogised on this myth, saying:

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently."[1]

Innovation is hardly the preserve of the lone genius. For the most part, innovation is a team sport. Apple itself exemplifies this point. Steve Jobs was a phenomenally successful leader, but the innovations that Apple brought to market were the result of intense collaboration by many talented individuals, each contributing to something greater than themselves.

In terms of population, Australia punches above its weight on the innovation front. WiFi was developed by the CSIRO and the black box flight recorder by Dr David Warren. Google Maps while developed by Danish brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen – they did so with their mainly Australian team in Sydney in the early 2000s.

We're also seen as global leaders in health innovation, did you know that it was Australian scientist Howard Florey who demonstrated penicillins ability to fight bacterial infections? We've invented the cochlear implant, spray on skin, artificial pacemakers, ultrasound scanners and more recently the world's first anti-cancer vaccine.

Australia's work in this sector stands at the very forefront of international development. Here at the Australian Digital Health Agency, we've built innovation into our corporate DNA, dedicating an entire division to this function with the goal to support the Australian health software industry in bringing innovative concepts to life that deliver real meaningful value to both providers and the community they serve.

We plan to deliver on this mandate in a variety of ways. The first of these will see a new virtual home for developers, innovators and implementers at This will bring together the not-inconsiderable digital assets of the Agency designed to support those organisations who want to connect systems to the digital health eco-system. These assets will be searchable across all types of content, and will also allow developers to identify their profiles and quickly access the tools, information and services most relevant to them.

In keeping with the team spirit ethos, we will work with the community to co-design the experience, ensuring that it best reflects the needs of Australia's growing digital health sector and learning from the feedback received to date and lessons learnt from our developer engagement to date.

I recently spent two days at the Digital Health Show in Melbourne listening to developers, clinicians and others talk about what they are planning and what they want from the Agency to assist them in those endeavours. Almost universally, what they wanted was a place to connect to others in the community. Developers were looking to connect to clinicians, clinicians were looking for developers to build solutions they had identified, and vendors of various technologies where looking to connect to both to support the move to safe and secure digital health platforms.

Even more importantly, these various groups wanted to be part of the journey, using the assets that the Agency provides, but also contributing to them, enhancing them and sharing their own content. This represents the true spirit of co-design and co-production often seen in the open source development communities. Over the coming months we want to build a digital platform that supports these aspirations, so we can support this dynamic community who are delivering the next generation of the digital health eco-system.

Bringing digital innovation to the health sector is a team sport, and the Agency is just one player in that team. But like any team, each of us must do their part to make the whole community successful. I hope you will join us as we work with others in the developer and innovator community to deliver our part of that effort. And if you have ideas that you'd like to share with us, we'd welcome them at

David O'Driscoll is the Director of Innovation in the Innovation and Development Division, Australian Digital Health Agency.

Follow David on Twitter @djodriscoll

[1]By Rob Siltanen, for the Apple Inc. Think Different campaign.

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