Half of us consider starting a business…but “tall poppy syndrome” is holding us back

held back

New research released by CGU Insurance has found more than half (53 per cent) of all Australians have seriously thought about starting a business or “side hustle”, but are yet to realise their ambition.

The CGU Ambition Index* shows that we may not be acting on our ambitions due to lingering perceptions of tall poppy syndrome as well as a fear of failure, revealing:

  • More than two thirds of Australians (68 per cent), and even more small-business owners (75 per cent) believe Australia has a culture of negativity toward those with ambition.
  • Seven in 10 don’t like to talk about their ambitions or successes for fear of being labelled a “bragger”.
  • Nearly half (44 per cent) say they worry too much about failure to act on their ambitions, with women (48 per cent) and Millennials (54 per cent) more likely to feel this way.

CGU’s Small Business Spokesperson Kate Wellard said that if Australia wants to turn our status as an innovation stall-out nation** around we need to get better at expressing and acting on our ambitions.

“The research has revealed a gap between ambition and action. Deep down Australians are ambitious and want others to be more ambitious, but fear seems to be holding us back. This is something we need to change. We need to make this culture of negativity and tall poppy syndrome a thing of the past,” Ms Wellard said.

The CGU Ambition Index reveals that 88 per cent of people want themselves to be more ambitious and 91 per cent want Australia to be a more ambitious nation. It also shows that when we do talk about our ambition the response is often positive, with 71 per cent saying they have had a positive experience when discussing their ambition.

The research also highlights that if Australians acted on their ambition of starting a business, the benefits could extend beyond individuals to the broader economy.

“Ambition shouldn’t be a dirty word. When we’re striving for our goals we’re happier and also driving ourselves and our nation forward,” Ms Wellard said.

For the first time, the CGU Ambition Index has put a figure on the potential of unrealised ambition in Australia. The research shows that almost 250,000 additional new businesses could be created in the next two years if just one in 10 of those who want to start a business, do so. It also suggests that if just one per cent of current small-business owners are able to reach their revenue and growth ambitions in the next 12 months, Australia’s economy could benefit to the tune of an additional $1.7 billion in GDP.

“While we have long been known as the ‘Lucky Country’ our prosperity depends on our ability to make our own luck. To do that we need to start fostering and backing ambition of all kinds, whether this be starting a business, creating something new or innovative, or even migrating to Australia to build a better life.

“At CGU, we believe that all of us have a role to play in better supporting those who have the courage to be ambitious and to chase their dreams. This includes being more comfortable talking about ambition, as well as failure, and calling out ‘tall poppy syndrome’ when we see it,” Ms Wellard said.

“Small-business owners are innovators and risk takers, and champions of ambition in our communities. We hope this report inspires Australians from all walks of life to learn from them and to act on their ambitions, because all of us will benefit.”

* The CGU Ambition Index is based on research of 2000 Australians (including 1000 business owners) and provides a snapshot of the state of ambition in Australia. The research was conducted for CGU Insurance by EY Sweeney in August 2018.
** https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/Home