Roll on summer!

December 1 heralds the official start of summer in Australia but this month also saw the arrival of a summer’s worth of rain in 24 hours. Following our cold, frosty winter we have been enjoying some rather warm 30 degrees Celsius plus days in the run up to December. With the big downpour I started to wonder whether we should start work on an ark! Our builder says his shed wasn’t big enough for such a project but he would watch out for a dove with an olive branch. My husband’s response was, “The olive tree had floated away!”. It was a deluge.

 

Our driveway suffered a bit of damage so we are waiting for a professional to come in and remake the road for us. We have placed a couple of “witches’ hats” in the two holes to warn visitors.

My city slicker cat is adapting to country life and has a new activity chasing little bunnies who are game enough to come out into the open. However, the day after the big rain and being cooped up for a couple of days, Rambo spent his time watching the rabbit burrow near our rockery. He came back to the house and was scratching like crazy. I thought he had sat on one of the many sugar ant hills around our house and got himself bitten.  But no, looking at his dirty chest, he had stuck his head down the burrow and was infested with fleas. We usually use the slow release flea treatment that is absorbed into the cat’s bloodstream but this called for urgent action. We were fortunate to have some flea powder handy and the fleas were jumping in large numbers! A friend told me it happens a lot with rabbits and cats – and owners have to flea bomb their houses afterwards. I’m not scratching so haven’t resorted to that action – just a really good vacuum.

With the warmer weather, the snake sightings increase which makes me nervous if the cats are wandering around outside. My husband just called me outside to near the rockery where a rather large black/brown snake was slithering away. So I bring the cats in and they are not happy being locked up on such a nice afternoon. My camera is sitting next to me but when it comes to snakes I don’t feel so inclined to get that close to the subject matter.

Earlier this year we attended the Alternative Farming Expo at Seymour where we watched a snake handler do a display with various snakes found throughout Australia. It is part of a snake awareness education program, explaining the different types and how dangerous the different species are. We bought a snake bite first aid kit for our car. Tourniquets are no longer used and a wide crepe bandage is used to immobilise the affected limb or other body parts.  I did feel braver when watching someone who was experienced with snakes and did pat one of them when he walked around with one for the audience to touch. I took several photos but it was still unnerving watching these reptiles slithering on the ground. But there are very strict regulations for transporting snakes and some heavy-duty storage lockers in use.

 

Snakes are a protected species, so it is best to give them a wide berth when encountered. We have a dam near our house which we are told attracts snakes. Just like other parts of the world we learn to respect the wild things that we share this land with and use common sense when around them.

Enough! Chega Museum, Dili, Timor Leste

Kianga Klicks Photography

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Chega was originally an Indonesian prison where many East Timorese were incarcerated in appalling conditions. This is one of the many cells used and many were overcrowded.
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Another prison cell.

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Visitors to the museum are encouraged to write words of hope on the blackboard.
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The barbed wire and high walls are a reminder of this place’s use as a prison.
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Various artworks depict various aspects of East Timorese people’s journey.
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Part of the CVAR report that led to the establishment of Chega to remind us of the human rights’ abuse against the East Timorese.
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Part of the Chega display.
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The importance of archives.

 

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This photo features on the cover of the final report.
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The final document.
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Another area of the former prison preserved to remind us of its grim history.

 

Dili, gateway to Timor Leste

A comfortable one-hour flight from Darwin, in the Northern Territory, will have you in Dili, the capital of Timor Leste, one of the newest nations on earth,  and leaving behind many of the comforts of home. Tourism is a fledgling industry here but it is a country where one is so warmly welcomed and the people give much of themselves to visitors.

A small, basic building serves as the international airport and is a far cry from the slick commercial ones we are used to. The local yellow cabs look like duct tape is used to keep them together. They are a reminder we are in a third-world country. The shattered windscreen and scraping mudguards accompanied by plumes of exhaust fumes do little to instil confidence that these vehicles can make the trip into the centre of Dili. Car ownership and even motor bikes or scooters, are beyond the reach of most East Timorese. Other than taxis, there is the local Mikrolet, a mini-bus used by most to travel around town or to the more remote parts of the country. Colourful and noisy, they remind one of public transport in India. For other people, walking long distances is common.

The taxi ride from the airport is an experience. Our laden suitcases tax the suspension of our hire car. We are carrying extra luggage because we have special supplies for the village of Venilale, with which we have a partnership with back in Australia. The boot of the car where our suitcases are stowed, is also home to a rather large black box which amplifies the rather loud, grating music for our driver’s entertainment. Obviously, proud of his sound system, for me in the back seat my poor ear drums were under assault. We politely requested that it be turned off!

We spent our first three nights in Dili at the Hotel Esplanda, with comfortable western-style accommodation. The up-stairs restaurant overlooks the sea which provides a cooling breeze and respite from the humidity. The southern Australian winter months is a recommended time to visit East Timor.

 

 

 

When in Dili there are some essential places to visit to get a feel for the country,  its people, history and Timorese culture.  If you are keen to buy some authentic souvenirs from Timor Leste, then the Tais Market, is a must. Here you can choose from several different stalls hand-crafted items utilising this traditional woven fabric which is often used as part of their national dress. It is a great opportunity to see local women operating the hand-looms up close. There may be some bargaining but it tends to fairly low-key and not as aggressive as you find in other Asian countries.

One aspect of travel in East Timor, is using American dollars as the local currency, which seems strange at first, given how far away America is. Also be prepared to carry plenty of cash because credit card facilities are not common at many of the markets or retail shops run by local Timorese. Most items are not particularly expensive compared to back home. Grab a hand of bananas from a street vendor for $1US for a quick cheap snack!

Other places of interest with powerful stories to share are the Santa Cruz Cemetery, and Chega, the truth and reconciliation museum. I wrote about Chega in an earlier post The importance of storytelling beyond once upon a time… if you would like to read  more about why recording people’s stories is paramount to the healing process.

Preceding the violent events of 1999 when East Timor’s fight to become an independent nation was international news was the Santa Cruz Massacre on November 12, 1991. On that morning  the Indonesian security forces violently suppressed a peaceful procession of some 3,000 Timorese people to Dili’s Santa Cruz cemetery.  This led to the deaths of 271 East Timorese, 382 wounded and 250 reported missing afterwards according to local accounts (Braithwaite, Charlesworth and Soares 2012). To better understand the events leading up to the Indonesians opening fire on those present, I would recommend the reference link below to the ANU (Australian National University) publication.

This was my first trip to East Timor and in all my travels I had never encountered a graveyard like this one. Bearing in mind the horrific event of 1991, the place has a surreal feel  with its ramshackle collection of monuments and tombs to honour the dead. Unlike our orderly English-style cemeteries, with footpaths and signs, Santa Cruz, requires scrabbling over graves to get anywhere. I found myself constantly apologising to those below for stepping on their final resting places. Shrines celebrating the dominant Catholic religion of many East Timorese and a legacy of 400-years of Portuguese colonisation, are plentiful and varied in their design. Mini-church buildings and praying hands are among the more unusual decorations.  On my way out of the cemetery, I found a dead cat lying on top of a grave, looking as if it had been placed there intentionally.  As, I said, it was a surreal feeling.

Another popular tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners, is the sunset walk (or run for others!) to the Cristo Rei statue via a 590-steps stairway passing stations of the cross.  The 27 metre high structure stands with the arms of Jesus stretched out to welcome us. Ironically, it was a present from one of the most Muslim populated countries in the world to the  predominately Christian country in 1996. Indonesian President Suharto used it to mark  the 20th anniversary of Indonesia annexing East Timor as a token gesture to please the Catholic majority (atlasobscurra website). This failed to stop East Timor’s fight for independence which escalated in 1999.

Another place worth checking out while in Dili, is Arte Moris a centre for fine arts established in 2003 and described by Lonely Planet Guide as “quirky”. It provides an outlet for the youth of Timor Leste to express themselves through various artistic mediums of contemporary and traditional forms. The place has a real reggae feel and features dark and humorous pieces.  The building with its broken ceilings and run-down surrounds are due to lack of money for such things and believed to send a political message by the artists about the lack funding for the arts (Yin Hooi 2017). In a country still dealing with the trauma of the past, here is somewhere to create with the future in mind. If you are interested in buying any of the works, a phone call is made to the individual artist to negotiate  a price.

Dili, is a fascinating city with much to offer but for its people there is much work to do to improve the lives of everyday Timorese and build a stronger, positive future for all. The nation’s capital makes a great start to any travels beyond Dili. But be prepared for the roads leading out…

References:

Braithwaite, John, Charlesworth, Hilary and Soares, Adérito (2012), Chapter 6, Santa Cruz Massacre, 1991,  Networked Governance of Freedom and Tyranny: Peace in Timor-Leste,  by ANU E Press, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p174961/pdf/ch061.pdf

Ying Hooi, Khoo (2017), How arts heal and galvanise the youth of Timor Leste, Myanmar Times, 14th June, 2017.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/cristo-rei

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/timor-leste/dili/attractions/arte-moris/a/poi-sig/427823/356192

 

Spring forward, fall back

A month into spring, we move our clocks forward by one hour for the beginning of daylight saving as we head towards summer and somewhere on the other side of the world, clocks fall back by an hour as winter advances. Coming out of a colder than usual Victorian winter, the sun-lit days with increased warmth are welcomed with open arms. The ski season was able to extend its season to include the most recent school holidays but the sight of snow-capped mountains is quickly disappearing! Good winter rains has filled our dams and tanks and left the surrounding country side looking reminiscent of the green hills in Lancashire, England, the birthplace of my husband.

 

As we shed our winter layers and start to tackle the tasks of cutting grass and weeding garden beds, we are aware of the changing seasons.  Daffodils and jonquils created a jolly display and now we are seeing white and pink blossoms throughout our property. Spring also brings new purpose to our bird population as they busily flit about building nests and leaving their calling cards on the walls of our house! A certain magpie has taken to dive bombing me on my get-fit walks which always makes me nervous. We are amazed by the tiny wrens picking up material for their nests twice their size and the pretty ground-level plover eggs.  As the heat increases we are aware that snakes including brown and tiger varieties, are awakening from their hibernation. At this stage, only seen two down by our dam.

 

We enjoy watching the antics of our neighbours’ new-born calves as they view us with great curiosity. Our two elderly cows despite their old bones enjoy the fresh green blades of grass on our lawn. The frosty days seem to be behind us. Now time to issue all those much overdue lunch and dinner invitations to celebrate these precious spring days with friends new and old. I watch the sun come up over the nearby hill and watch it go down on the opposite hill in the evening. Every day is different and brings a wonderful sense of calm and peace to know that nature is healing my body and soul.

Jack Frost nipping at our heels!

Winter brings new challenges and perspectives on life in the country.

 

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Moving from the city to the country; early morning frosts brings back childhood memories.

Winter arrives with the icy fingers of frost and heavy fog in abundance. Jack Frost is laying claim on our wide open spaces with great delight, as temperatures dive down to minus zero Celsius. The appearance of snow on the nearby mountain peaks, has brought the best ski season in five years attracting visitors and tourist dollars to the region.

I began this post at the start of winter and here it is with only one day officially before the start of spring. Life and other distractions have kept me away from finishing this blog about my tree-change during the cold months. My blogging was focused on Creativity and Innovation,  my latest university unit towards my agonizingly slow process of getting my first degree.

It has been an exceptionally cold winter. The wood heater is working overtime and the woolly jumpers and fur-lined boots busted out of the wardrobe. My two furry friends, Friskie and Rambo, have increased the snuggle factor as the temperature gauge drops overnight.

My respite from the cold was a two week trip to East Timor (Timor Leste) in July with a local friends group of 16 which included eight secondary college students, teachers and community members such as myself.  This was a life-changing trip and has increased my passion for this emerging nation and its beautiful people to do more to support them. I will post separately about my travels to Timor Leste and share my observations and experiences. The morning I flew out to 30 degrees plus temperatures, it was minus 5 at home! Very cold by Australian standards.

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Our frozen landscape!

With the cold weather, also came a wet winter. Many of us thought that last year’s big wet after almost 10 years of dry weather was  a one-off and not to be complacent that the same would happen again. Obviously, we were optimistic when we bought our 22,000 litre water tank to catch the run off on our shed in April – it is now full. Both our dams have filled as well which is a bonus. Bolly (my hubby) continues to clear up around the place and is making some significant inroads. Where he has cleared the banking between the dams, is now a clearway for visiting kangaroos. We do see some big holes which belong to our burrowing wombats but not near the house thankfully. Rabbits were also on the increase but their numbers seem to have tapered off. My city cat, Rambo, caught his first rabbit the other day and his second one the next day. We are not sure if it was the same rabbit or not! Not bad for a 11-year-old cat who sleeps most of the day.

Sadly, we had to have one of our old cows put down recently. The extra cold mornings and the deterioration in her health, meant that it was the most humane thing to do. The other two despite their slow movements are happy munching grass and treating us with the contempt they think we deserve.

Although the chilly days bring their challenges to keeping well rugged-up and warm, the landscape is always changing and giving us new vistas each day. But seeing the early daffodils nodding in the breeze gives one hope of warmer days ahead.

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Oh daffodil your arrival not only brightens my garden but gives a promise of spring to come.

 

What is disruptive innovation?

Change. We all have to accept change at some point in our lives. Whether it is positive or negative change we are experiencing, the disruption brings upheaval or discomfort to some of us. The term disruptive technology seems to be in common use today but what is disruptive innovation?

This is a new term for me. But it has been around since the 1990s when Professor Clayton Christensen came up with the description of the “process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors”.

 

It helps to explain why large successful companies such as Kodak and Nortel disappeared from the business landscape. They failed to see the challenges coming from others who could create a demand for their products even if they were still in the early days of development. I remember the arrival of word processors in the news room; clunky, slow and much larger than the traditional typewriter. But they were here to stay.

In the mid-1980s many old journos were still clinging to their faithful Remingtons. When I entered journalism, I was a dab hand at typing and took on the challenge of a new technology which allowed us to fix our mistakes without retyping a new piece of paper each time or endure hard copy that was brandishing lots of sub-editors red ink!

Computers were part of our working life as journalists and had not taken over our personal lives at this stage. One could enjoy a quiet ale at the local drinking hole without the constant interruption of phone calls, text messages and emails. That pub is now a just a fond memory of another time.

This disruptive innovation got me thinking as far back as the time when the printing press was invented. Imagine how the working classes were kept ignorant by denying them access to books and other reading matter. The Bible is a classic example. If one wanted to know the teachings of Jesus, it was preached from the pulpit from a hand-illustrated and written manuscript. Imagine the joy when people could actually hold a copy of the Bible in their own hands and not have to rely on the clergy of the day to communicate the gospel.

Today the media is undergoing the biggest shakeup in its history. For more than 100 years, newspapers were part of our daily routine. The rise of the citizen journalist, now possible through the wonders of social media and blogs such as these, have challenged the status quo. Journalists are busy adapting to this disruptive innovation and trying to add something meaningful to an overcrowded information deluge.

Disruptive disruption looks like it is here to stay so watch this space!

Reference:

http://www.claytonchristensen.com/key-concepts/

 

The importance of storytelling beyond once upon a time…

Words, pictures, voices and actions can be woven into storytelling in all its different forms. It can be an oral history passed down by Indigenous Australians, a Shakespearean tragedy, a rousing Italian opera, tall tales shared by good mates, moving pictures on the screen both big and small, or found in the pages of a book. Whatever means is used to tell a story, there is a purpose behind the telling.

For writers or at least for me, the narrative is the holy grail of storytelling. As children we often heard or read the words, “Once upon a time…” that would lead us into the world of princes and princesses, fairies and elves,  wicked step-mothers and ugly sisters. There was usually the elements of good and evil, a sense of injustice and redemption, followed by a happy ending to the fairy tale. Without being aware of the morals being espoused by such tales, our attitudes and morals were shaped by such storytelling. Being able to communicate through narrative is part of our human nature.

When we grow up, we learn not all stories have a happy ending and we need to find ways to make sense of the impact of events on our own lives and the world around us. I recall being fascinated by Aboriginal rock art images in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The stick-like figures drawn by Indigenous people thousands of years ago showed swollen joints of individuals. I found out later this is was a  result of poisoning from the uranium in the ground. Other rock art depicts many images from the Dreamtime including the Rainbow Serpent. These stories are passed down from generation to generation.

The power of story-telling in much more recent times, is the first-hand accounts of individuals who have endured horrors beyond comprehension.  But there is healing in telling such stories for those involved and a challenge to the rest of us not to forget. During my recent visit to East Timor, my travel group had the privilege of visiting the Chega Museum in Dili. The word Chega loosely translated from Portuguese means, “No more, stop, enough!”. Chega was also the title of a report compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste. It is a powerful and emotional journey as one tours this former Indonesian prison, the site of many atrocities against the East Timorese and learn of the inhumane treatment of individuals and their families beyond its walls during the invasions. The trauma experienced has left deep scars but the personal stories told are part of the healing and a message to us that we must never permit this to happen again.  But the museum is also a place of hope and peace – where visitors can leave positive messages.

The power of one’s own story can have an impact across the generations and across the world if we preserve the narrative and ensure that those “Once upon a time..” stories have a happier ending.

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The entrance to the Chega Museum, Dili, Timor Leste.

 

 

Never to old to play, seriously!

 

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These East Timorese orphans having fun with some adult Australian visitors.

 

There is the old saying , “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. I’m sure the same applies to all the  Jills out there and anyone who believes fun and play is only for children should have another think. In this fast-paced world of social engagement and think tanks only a few key strokes or finger taps away, maybe it’s time to review our approach to more productive work spaces by adding a bit of fun in the mix.

Push back the office chair and turn off the computer, for some down time and a good ol’ fashion belly laugh. Type laughter workshops into your search engine and there is a surprisingly a large number to choose from. The main focus seems to be to help workers de-stress and in the process create a more productive workplace. It also encourages more positive brainstorming and ideas generation.  For some of us letting our inner child loose is outside our comfort zone.

In my experience some of the activities organised in certain workplaces reflects the age group of the team leader in some cases. Call centre employment involves being tied to a phone in one place for a shift and can be repetitious. To break the monotony activities would range from hula dancing competitions, trying to catch money in a wind machine or just going to “Maccas”  for team meetings. As much as I appreciated the break from the usual drill, I’m not sure it increased my productivity or brainstorming capacity.

Other industries are busy with everyday business and little thought is given to creating some play element into a working day. That is not to say,  employees’ well being is not highly regarded by businesses and other organisations; many organise some form of social or physical activities for staff and volunteers.

What we are talking about here, is introducing some playfulness into the work environment that engages individuals and triggers creativity in a fun and useful way. Let’s face it many of us are like big kids when we get to play with something new or innovative. There must be a reason why tools such as computers, smart phones and televisions designed to help us do our work or educate us, become playthings as well!

But the importance of play in our childhood and the role it plays in our adult lives should not be under estimated. Lack of fun and games as a youngster robs one of the ability to dream of big things in the future. Some Brits bringing joy into the life of children in a refugee camp are featured in a BBC Three video, Amazing Humans: Making children smile again through the simple act of creative play using music, art, dance and more.

 

Play researcher and psychiatrist, Dr Stuart Brown, with the National Institute of Play in the US,  is a strong advocate of the benefits of play in childhood and how that makes us much happier and smarter adults. He believes if we maintain this sense of playfulness into our adult years, it will keep us smarter at any age. Reflecting on this topic makes me realise that we all need a sense of joy in our personal and working lives, but we need to learn how as a child.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

 

Is innovation and positive social change possible for the homeless?

The world is driven by the pursuit and use of technology-based activities and applications that dictate our working day and leisure time that was unthinkable even 20 years ago. But this rapid social change comes at a price it seems. For all the back slapping and kudos that technological  innovations receive, there is a huge disconnect between rich and poor Australians, with the “haves” and “have-nots”  denoting the digital divide.

The national Homelessness Week which finishes today (7th to 13th August) has prompted commentary regarding a ‘digital divide’ that has deepened significantly and the failure of disadvantaged groups and individuals being able to access the internet and on-line services.  This formed part of the findings from an inclusion index completed by RMIT researchers in partnership with Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, Telstra and Roy Morgan Research. Three key areas of focus were; online access, affordability and digital ability (Nott 2017).

Although there has been marked improvement in ”digital inclusion” in recent years those on lower incomes with reduced education and employment opportunities, and Indigenous Australians and people with a disability are being left behind (Nott 2017). For the many different welfare agencies that support disadvantaged families and individuals, the strain of other household bills, makes internet access out of reach for many that are struggling financially.

My own experience working in this sector has seen it first hand where a mobile phone is the only means of communication for clients especially for those without secure housing and who are much more transient; this technology still requires access to power sources, money for pre-paid credit and are expensive to replace if stolen or damaged. The digital divide gapes even wider when one is trying to communicate with government departments such as Centrelink and are left on hold on a phone call or forced to log-on.

Thankfully, there are organisations who recognise the need for greater participation by all Australians within the digital space. Not-for-profit Infoxchange has just established a new alliance with support from various organisations including Australia Post, Google and Telstra to address this issue (Nott 2017)

Another positive initiative by Infoxchange was the development of  the Ask Izzy app which connects homeless people throughout Australia with appropriate services and charities. According to new data collected by Ask Izzy, demand for shelter doesn’t cease at sundown with the majority of online requests occurring between 12am and 3am looking for accommodation options. Research conducted by University of Sydney found around 80% of homeless people own a smartphone but lack access to power points to charge their phones (Rooney 2017).

To overcome this problem a fundraising campaign to provide battery recharge cards  has been launched to coincide with Homelessness Week by Ask Izzy. This worthwhile cause is asking the public to donate $15 to buy  Ask Izzy Power Card for those who need to access the more than 350,000 services nationally ranging from food, health advice, warm bedding or a place to sleep  available through the smartphone app (Tann 2017).

While we still have a long to go to solve the multi-layered issues surrounding homelessness, an innovative app like Ask Izzy, is a positive step in reducing the “digital divide”.

References:

Nott, George (2017) Digital divide deepening according to inclusion index,  Computer World, 4 August, 2017                                                                                                                            https://www.computerworld.com.au/article/print/625673/digital-divide-deepening-according-inclusion-index/

Rooney, Kieran (2017) Most people without homes have phones but lack power points, The Observer, 8 August 2017.                                                   https://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/most-people-without-homes-have-smart-phones-but-la/3209877/

Tann, Phil (2017) Ask Izzy lets you give some warmth to the homeless this winter, Ausdroid, 8 August 2017.                                                                                        http://ausdroid.net/2017/08/08/ask-izzy-lets-give-warmth-winter/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The business of innovation – for richer or poorer

Sepia typewriter watermark

Innovation is another one of those terms that gets tossed around frequently, but do we really take the time to think more deeply about what it means? We all strive to be more  innovative; whether it is to make a difference in the world or come up with a product or a service for a ready-made market. This week I received my regular cosmetics’ brochure and there were at least six or more new beauty products all boasting innovations.  From the small to the big things, innovation can cover a multitude of uses. We are also told there is a difference between being creative and innovative.

 

It is easy to become enraptured by the ‘big guns’ such as Tesla with its driverless electric cars or Virgin with plans for holiday space trips to Mars; and neglect the quiet achievers. Innovation surrounds us everywhere and we probably take many inventions and other activities for granted.

I have just finished watching the final episode of the SBS TV series Michael Mosley: Queen Victoria’s Slums (2017) which involved  families and individuals living the life that their ancestors did as slum dwellers in London’s East End during her reign. The reality of life for the poorest of the poor becomes evident very quickly. One has to admire the ingenuity and survival skills living in the slums required. The final show moved onto the new age following the death of Queen Victoria, and the attempts to introduce welfare reform. Among these was a mass clearance of slums. While some people remained at the bottom of the rung others managed to work their way outside of the slums for a better life. Due to exposure in local newspapers with photographs and stories highlighting the dire circumstances of many individuals living in poverty, there was a more acute awareness among those with the power to change things.

With the rise of trade unions for better conditions and pay for working men, the women’s right to vote movement, and cooperatives which supported families, innovations were coming to the fore as part of a more progressive society. One example, the cooperative store provided a range of quality goods at competitive prices to consumers as well as social support. There were free first-time outings to the countryside away from the squalid city conditions for cooperative members and their children.

While poverty has not been eradicated with many disadvantaged groups still struggling today, the introduction of social security payments and subsidised medical treatment offers safety nets for those who need financial assistance in Australia. Innovative thinking was behind welfare reform but as we face different challenges and changing needs of the population, innovation is required again to avoid entrenched poverty becoming the norm.

 

https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/1010612291769/michael-mosley-queen-victorias-slum-the-fledgling-welfare-system

 

 

Bringing two worlds together

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Science as art – physical world meets innovation.

Our latest study topic Mining Interfaces is about breaking away from the predictable “silos” approach to dealing with issues and drawing on more than one discipline in a quest to unearth new opportunities and creative ideas. The possibilities are unlimited when one opens themselves up to this way of thinking; there are plenty of examples of combining the arts and science. Leonardo Da Vinci was not only famous for his artistic pursuits but also his ability to bring drawing and science together. His talent for painting iconic images such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper  was matched by a brilliant mind for mathematics and physics.

This got me thinking about how my mind has been moulded to dismiss anything mathematical or what I regard as high-brow science in favour of literature and the arts. Don’t get me wrong I am fascinated by science and admire how academics can make sense of a bunch of numbers and equations but many times it seems to be beyond my comprehension.   Returning to study as a mature age student requires me go places that maybe I haven’t been before. I already have a natural curiosity about the world and its workings, which many fellow journalists and writers possess. Lets face it, I was born a “sticky-beak”! I think my lack of expertise in maths was hindered by poor teaching from a text-book and maybe a touch of laziness.

Sometimes it is easy to overlook what we have stored up in our own brains over our lifetime. I believe the key is to find those individuals or resources that allow one to build on their existing skills and experience.

The onslaught of all information known to humankind has been accelerated by the invention of the internet and it is not realistic to expect anyone to know everything. The ability to “chunk” things down into manageable forms is more important than ever.  The “Knowledge Doubling Curve” devised by Buckminster Fuller, discovered human knowledge doubled nearly every century up to 1900.   Post World War 2 and it was said to be doubling every 25 years.   As the present internet expands and absorbs more information,  IBM claims the “internet of things” will see a doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

In a world crying out for our attention at every moment possible, I like to think that there is always room for creative and innovative ideas and inventions to inspire us and make us better as people with hearts and minds. Our willingness to cross disciplines is part of the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching problem solving

 

Mount Buller July 2017
Don’t be deterred by the size of the problem.

How often do we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem because we try to take on the whole thing in one go.  I am reminded of the analogy how does one eat an elephant; one bite at a time. In week 5 we are being pushed to dive into our tool box to start the process of problem solving which does require some creativity and innovation.

I am learning that solutions are not always flashes of inspiration or even a light bulb moment. Even those that are regarded as geniuses did not arrive at that point without a process beforehand. Application and pure sweat are usually involved as well.

So how does one approach problem solving? Adam Savage of Myth Busters TV fame provides a useful framework in a talk he gave in 2010 in California to tackle this dilemma his way.  I regard myself as being more creative in literature than anything to do with science or maths. But Savage makes the point that we possess existing skills that can be utilised in a different discipline or area of endeavour. His skills as a sculptor and the knowledge he gained from doing his art were applied to a new role as a film producer. As he says even painters need to adopt some problem-solving steps to complete a great work of art.

Savage has come up with some useful steps that myself or others could apply.  To start with ask what is the problem I am solving and most importantly what is the problem. Once you are clear about that, think about the big picture. Am I solving a single problem or is it part of something else? Find out how much time I have to complete the task and what deadline pressures are involved. Time and resources needed tend to go hand-in-hand. And of course what budget is allowed is vital. Location can be another significant problem especially if it involves working in certain climatic conditions. Other considerations can be an awareness of the team’s morale and a realistic audit of my own skills and whether outside help is required.  Taking this step by step approach makes good sense because as a broad check list one can eliminate any issues or barriers before starting the physical work.

I am learning that there are various ways to approach problem solving. There is a current TV ad for Skoda cars which uses the line “you don’t have to be famous to be brilliant”.  Many innovations we take for granted were most likely created by ordinary people who were willing to step up to the mark.   There also needs to be a passion and a willingness to learn as much as you can about the problem you want to solve. Along the way, I am collecting new ideas and concepts, including TRIZ, a 40-principles matrix that offers another approach. What ever problem I encounter, the key is to plan the solution using the various tools available beforehand. I may not be famous but maybe I could aim for brilliance!

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