First day of Creative Innovations 2012

It has been a hectic day. Up early to go to the gym and then, from 9am on, it’s been solid meeting, thinking, talking, networking and writing furiously. Regrettably, it appears that almost all of my notes may have just disappeared due to an application crash but, to be honest, I learned a great deal from writing it all down! (I’m still trying to recover all the notes!) (Whew – after a nervous hour that included a complete failure to boot, we appear to be going again. Sleep? Who needs sleep?)

This morning started with the Change Lab: solving complex social problems through design thinking. The key to all of this is, instead of getting caught in Challenge/Response cycle, you take a step back, get the useful (active) parties involved and get all of the problems out onto the table. I’ve given a very, very high level description but I’m going to need some time to go through my notes to distill it properly!

However, we were looking at problems in terms of whether they were dynamic (cause and effect a long way apart and interdependent), social (no one has the same lens on the problem) and/or generative (products of an uncertain and unknown future). We were asked to think about the problems in our institutions and how we’d classify them. I thought about two:

  1. Gender imbalance in the Engineering and ICT disciplines, which I assessed as dynamic (a dearth of female students years ago has not helped the numbers today) and social (in the amount of argument about this, due to personal perspectives and agendas).
  2. Increasing student workload to self-support. Most of today’s students are working to pay bills while they’re at Uni. I regard this as dynamic (changing social structures over the last few decades as well as reduced government funding), social (because the view of how people ‘should’ go to Uni is highly subjective) and generative (as we have no idea what this will do in the future and how we will really tackle it.)

I found it an interesting way to think about the problems in their overall scope. Other people’s problems included the health sector and their shift from acute care to chronic care as the population ages, and what was happening for students who don’t even make it to Cert IV in a workplace where further education has become expected. We then got a question that, to be honest, is one of the core themes of this conference:

What is the single greatest challenge you’re facing in trying to make progress in this problem(s)?

Well, that’s a good question. Speed of adaptation is a big one here – just because we were taught a certain way doesn’t make it right by any stretch of the imagination. Getting everyone who can solve either of my problems to even meet in the same room can be tricky, let alone agreeing to anything. We may end up spending all of our planning and organising time just putting a meeting together!

The Change Lab approach is designed to be systemic, participative and creative – so you need to be able to address the whole system and talk to all of the key players, while being able to step outside of the current constraints. (Hey, no-one said it would be easy!) The big problem with a big problem is that you can get stuck. You do the same thing because it’s what you do, even when you know it’s not working. Are we there yet? I don’t think so, but as someone else said today  (and I paraphrase) “The time to innovate is not when it’s inevitable, it’s when it looks like it’s not yet time.” We have some bad situations (gender balance being one of them) but we’re not yet completely stuck in it and there’s a lot of action for change.

Ok, must get some sleep but will blog again shortly.

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