Ben Olsen

South Australia is an exciting place to build a business. We have many talented people creating new products for world markets.

Reading a local newspaper, you’d be forgiven for thinking there is nothing to celebrate, but our creativity is not limited to building cars and mining minerals.

My company manufactures wearable medical devices for the treatment of sleep disorders and jet lag (Re-Timer). This device was invented, designed, and is now manufactured in South Australia.

Whilst our business does not have the same economic footprint on South Australia as Holden, our business indicators are good. My company exports 80% of production, income is growing and we are profitable.

The Industry Leaders Fund recognises the need to educate our leaders and retain them in South Australia. Doing so will be an essential platform for state growth. I’m fortunate to have received $9,000 to study Leading Product Innovation at Harvard Business School.

The application process involved three stages:

1.  Submitting an online application
2. Submitting a second round online application
3. Interview with selection panel. Total time I invested was eight hours. A worthwhile investment given the $9,000 grant requested.

The Harvard case study method is a brilliant approach to learning. For five days, I sat alongside executives from companies including Visa, Reebok and Motorola. Attendees were from all over the world. South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands and many more.

Topics debated amongst the class were:

1.  Improving the product development process
2.  Creating projects to explore and build new technical capabilities
3.  Transferring learning across projects and managing knowledge flows
4.  Identifying customer requirements and generating alternative solutions
5.  Implementing concurrent engineering and rapid problem-solving techniques
6.  Unlocking the potential of new experimentation technologies
7.  Designing flexibility into the product innovation process

I was able to absorb different approaches to product design and development. I walked away from the course with an action plan of principles, processes and business contacts I could leverage straight away. This undoubtedly will be put to good use as my business continues to invest in new products.

The mission of the Industry Leaders Fund is something all South Australian businesses should support. Not only is it to their direct benefit to retain and grow talent, it’s a moral obligation on us all to create opportunities for our children. Now more than ever, the Industry Leaders Fund is needed in South Australia.