Saturday, September 10, 2011

Notes from the 'Innovate Symposium', Brisbane, August 2011

It has taken me a while to absorb everything that was going on at the recent 'Innovate Symposium' organised through Volunteering QLD and held at the Griffith University EcoCentre in Brisbane last month (18-19/08/2011) However, finally I have had time to reflect and can present my thoughts on the Symposium.

My First Impressions

Coming in to the Innovate Symposium, I was not quite sure what to expect. I had been looking forward to attending for months, ever since my friend Ehon ( who was one of the presenters, had invited me to participate.

Walking through the rainy bush to the EcoCentre at the Griffith University, Nathan Campus was like walking to another space entirely.

It is a lovely building, set in the bush near the main university covered by trees and vegetation. I felt that it was a really nice touch to arrange the symposium there. It somehow illuminated to all the participants, what the organisers wanted us to experience, an un-conference, where all would be possible.

On our arrival, we had to choose two pegs from the tree besides the registration desk that would represent us. During the day we would use these pegs to get to know the fellow participants better. It was a fun way of enhancing networking amongst the symposium attendants.

What stroke me most of the symposium was it's attempt to reintroduce to the minds of the participants the different ways of artistic expression and creativity that can enhance the innovation process.

That in it's turn reminded me that the original word technology derives from Greek and Latin 'techne' meaning the 'art' in a much broader sense as 'skill' or the art that derives from the knowledge of how to do things. It also reminded me that it is only in the last 200 years that we have separated the knowledge as science from the technology, it's practical art (McQuire, 2006).

It was a really welcome effort from the organisers to make us feel, in a practical way, the possibilities the artistic expression can and should be allowed to freely contribute in the innovation process. The artistic expression is a vital part of human creativity and can be applied anywhere, even in business.

The First Day

The first day of the symposium combined listening and learning through Panel talks, World Cafe type discussions and workshops.

We were introduced to several interesting projects, including the Community Gardens in Newcastle, Stratbroke Island Men's Shed project and North Queensland (Ingham) Rainforest Rangers by enthusiastic project leaders. All the experiences mentioned were products of the creative and innovative processes that in a wonderful ways respond to the needs of the members in different communities around Australia.

I could relate to each and everyone of the presented projects and immediately apply the knowledge of their experiences in my own organisation which is currently in the process of developing similar projects. It is really important to build new relationships based on inventive mindset.

I was very intrigued by the talk on the Creative Engagement in Action by Tal Fitzpatrick and also by our house artist Tashka Urban. They had a very practical approach to creativity and showed some very inspiring pictures that demonstrated creative inventiveness in action.

Suddenly, a poem, that was recited woke the historian in me. It was read as a demonstration of a new kind of approach to life as such, namely that 'life is not fair'. As a historian I, immediately, placed the poem solidly in the tradition of the Lutheran work ethics and was struck by the fact that, here, once again, the human memory shows it's shortcomings in failing to remember.

I discussed this with the participant sitting next to me. The question arose, should we forget or remember our history? Is in fact remembering, a way to stop us from innovating as we are naming the known and placing new potentiality in an old framework?

I have recently sat in a seminar on aging where the presenter reminded the listeners that it is only due to the progressive aging of humanity since the last 10000 years, that our technological inventions have come about in the first place. It is only due to the accumulated human knowledge that innovation is possible. Is it only the historian in me that grows frustrated when we blatantly miss a cue or is it something we should carefully think about in the process of innovation?

I chose to participate in Ehon Chan's workshop about the New Media. It was a really fun experience. Especially I enjoyed observing Ehon's wonderful enthusiasm and his thoroughly idealistic way of approaching subjects and issues. We should not be limited by our possible reluctance to learn about the new media. We should just embrace it as human potential.

The Rest of It

The second day of the symposium was spent in workshops on barriers to innovation, personal practice in transforming the barriers and applying design principals to practice.

What I took away from the symposium was the great stories that were shared by both the presenters and the fellow participants. There is a lot of experience that can be shared to aid the innovative process. There also was talk about the concept of 'living on the edge'.

Many of the participants I talked with felt that this has been our lot. Being there, on the edge, just about to fall to the precipice of the new and the unknown. The Symposium really brought forward the fact that 'living on the edge' is a happy place to be instead of the frightening place that we think it is.

Now, after a month, I still think about the Symposium. Suddenly, during a busy day, I stop and visualise the picture that was shown there of a huge war tank artistically covered with a pink knitted quilt. I smile and go about my day ready to continue my 'life on the edge' of it.


McQuire (2006) Technology. Theory, Culture & Society, 23 (2-3)

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