The world’s first “Tesla Town” in Melbourne

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Plans have been made for what could be the world’s first “Tesla Town” – a mini-suburb on the outskirts of the Melbourne CBD whose homes will include rooftop solar and Tesla battery storage as standard design features. It’s being built by local property group Glenvill, and this green development’s first 60 homes are now on sale. It’s on the Yarra River and is called YarraBend. www.yarrabend.com.au

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Why crime in NY declined

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IdeaSpies attended the last lecture given by Professor Kenneth Jackson today after 40 years of lectures on history and social sciences at Columbia University. He attributed the decline in crime in NY since the mid 90’s to factors such as more aggressive policing, handgun control, an aging population and abortions reducing unwanted children, which should interest other cities concerned about crime rates.

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Clever legislation stops branding on cigarette packets

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Australia led the world in mandating plain packaging for tobacco in 2012. It also requires warnings on packs. The warning on the side of this pack says “The toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can go everywhere that your blood flows, causing harm all over your body”. This year the British Medical Journal published results of separate studies on the impact of plain packaging on the public indicating the laws were producing positive health outcomes.

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A city walk with an ex-street kid

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The Salaam Baalak Trust City Walk is an English guided tour conducted by kids who used to live in the streets of Delhi . The Walk gets the children’s stories heard and gives you a view of their world through their eyes. The Trust finds children 5-18 living on the streets and helps find their families while giving them an education and a place to stay. Our inspiring guide Junaid, seen here with two of the children, won a scholarship from the Uni of Central Queensland to continue his education. This program is supported by Save the Children. www.salaambaalaktrust.com

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Australian cattle are being used to create heart valves

Australian cattle are being used to create heart valves

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Truly great innovators do these 4 things

In the process of researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I talked to dozens of successful innovators, from world class scientists seeking to cure cancer and create new computing architectures, to senior executives at large corporations and entrepreneurs at startups. It was a pretty diverse group. One of the underlying premises of the book is that there is no one “true” path to innovation, so I expected to see a variety of approaches and that’s indeed what I found. Some of the people I talked to were slow and deliberate, spending years or even decades on a difficult problem. Others were fast and agile, iterating and pivoting toward a viable solution. However, I also noticed that some remarkably constant themes emerged. Over time, it became clear that while the people I talked to were vastly different in background, training, personality type and method, they tended to have four attributes in common. While none of these will make you a great innovator, you are unlikely to innovate without them. 1. Actively Seek Out Important Problems The most striking thing I noticed in my research was how innovators approached problems. They didn’t wait for them to arise, but actively sought them out. It is that passion for solving problems, rather than any particular personality type or ambition, that separates all of the innovators I talked to from most people and organizations. Experian, for example, set up a special unit to seek out and solve its customers toughest problems. IBM regularly sets up “grand challenges,” like developing a system that can beat humans at Jeopardy!. Steve Blank, whose ideas inspired the Lean Startup movement, encourages entrepreneurs to “get out of the building” and talk to customers. One of the most interesting people I talked to was Jim Allison. Low key to the extreme, he’s the type of guy who you would scarcely notice in a room. As a boy, he decided to be a scientist because he just liked “figuring things out.” So for more than 20 years, that’s what he did, sought out gaps in our understanding of the immune system and tried to figure them out. But in the mid-90’s he had what turned out to be a revolutionary idea. His decades of study led him to believe that our bodies were shutting off the immune system too early to fight cancer. It was this insight that led him to develop cancer immunotherapy, which today is considered a miracle cure that saves the lives of thousands of terminally ill patients who once had no hope. Allison is an extreme case, but I found that most innovators had some version of the same story. Most never dreamed they would do anything important, they were just trying to solve a problem. 2. They Overcome Failure Not all of Jim Allison’s story was happy. In fact, after he had his initial breakthrough, he spent three whole years trying to convince pharmaceutical companies to back his idea. There were no takers. “It was depressing,” he told me. “I knew this discovery could make a difference, but nobody wanted to invest in it.” This is more common than you would think. Often, the stories we hear about great innovations are fairy tale versions that gloss over the uncomfortable parts. We hear about the triumphs, but not the frustrations and so we mistakenly believe that pathbreaking ideas are supposed to come to us as magical epiphanies. Consider the case of Alexander Fleming. We often hear about how he discovered penicillin when the bacteria colonies he was growing became contaminated by a mysterious mold. Yet what is rarely mentioned is that his discovery couldn’t have cured anyone and that it was another team altogether who made penicillin into a useful drug. The truth is that innovation is never a single event and rarely is it ever accomplished by a single person. It often takes decades for a fundamental discovery to have an impact on the world and along the way countless people play a part in making it happen. 3. They Have A Vision, But Remain Flexible When Alph Bingham was a chemistry graduate student at Stanford in the 1970’s, he was struck by how many ways there were to approach a tough research question. “The professor would present us with a problem and 20 different people would have 20 different ideas about how to solve it,” he told me.“ So when he first came up with the idea that became InnoCentive at Eli Lilly in the late 1990’s, he envisioned a platform that would work much the same way. It would allow chemists to post unsolved problems in order to attract insights from other chemists. What he found though was that most of the time answers came from some adjacent field, like physics or biology. So it became important to encourage experts on the platform to cross disciplines. Something similar happened when Children’s Health in Dallas set out to create a revolutionary new program that would go beyond simply delivering care by going out into the communities to address the social determinants of health. At first, it seemed clear that the best way to do that would be to leverage the hospital’s primary centers. Alas, the plan proved to be unworkable. So it created an entirely new infrastructure made up of health care navigators who help families connect with other resources in their community, such as Children’s Health and Wellness Alliance, a nonprofit that weaves together more than 100 community resources such as schools, social service and faith-based organizations. Every story I came across had an initial vision that was flawed in some way. So to be effective, innovators need to be quick to recognize problems and pivot to a new idea. 4. They Maintain A Deep Commitment To Collaboration What struck me most about the dozens of people I interviewed was that the vast majority, with few exceptions, were not only helpful in providing me with their formidable expertise and experiences, but showed a genuine interest in my project and asked me a number of questions about it. That’s unusual. Later, when I sent them excerpts to fact check, in almost all cases they pushed me to give more credit to others and less to themselves. In some cases they agreed to look over early versions of chapters. You can imagine my surprise when, more than once, the early […]

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Life outside the box

Among the gadgets in the kitchen the knife appears as the most simple tool. It is not as flashy as the electronic machines that make kitchen tasks so much lighter. Yet it is unimaginable to have a kitchen without this unassuming knife. Actually, scientists consider this humble tool as the first machine of the mechanical evolution. Thanks to the creative capacity of our ancestors. They saw the sharp edges of an angular stone as a means to easily tear apart their raw food. Through innovations, the knife was transformed from a stone in a dirt  to that useful gadget in modern-day kitchens. This process of thinking that generates or recognises ideas and alternatives to problem solving that are workable or functional is called creativity. Man’s capacity to be creative and innovative has made major contributions to humanity through the fields of science and the arts. Yet studies have proven that it also plays a very important role in everyday life. Experts in the field consider creativity as necessary in solving everyday problems and in adapting to changes. In fact, they consider it also as an indicator of mental health. Without creativity there is no innovation. Creativity is what drives a person to consider things from different perspectives and to work out of the box. It enables him to seek different ways of solving complex problems and to conceptualise strategies. It gives him the capacity to produce unique ideas. Innovation, on the other hand, is creativity at work. That is, it implements what creativity conceives. How does creativity and innovation arise? Case studies have come up with different theories to address this question. But the current views support the comprehensive  framework conceptualised by Teresa Amabile, doctor in Psychology and Head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. It suggests that creativity arises from the  integration of three factors: KNOWLEDGE: All the relevant understanding an individual brings to bear on a creative effort. CREATIVE THINKING: Relates to how people approach problems and depends on personalityand thinking/working style. MOTIVATION: Motivation is generally accepted as key to creative production, and the most important motivators are intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself. Many theories point to innovation and creativity as competencies of emotional intelligence (EI). This is so because EI enables one to transform emotions into motivators of creative activity. And during the creative process, innovation and creativity are at work with other EI competencies. People lacking in this competence: Find it difficult to deal with change and become anxious when there is a need to shift priorities. Often complain and has negative attitudes towards new situations. Are narrow-minded and are intractable from how they view things. Are not up to taking on new challenges. Can’t change track when confronted with changing circumstances. People with this competence: Seek out fresh ideas from a wide variety of sources. Are open to new and original solutions to problems. Ask lots of questions to acquire new ideas; they love exchanging ideas  such that they encourage others to brainstorm & think out loud. Question accepted practices, patterns and assumptions. Are naturally curious and take risks in their thinking. They seek new ways of doing things as they take views from other perspectives. Are resilient and adaptable; view failures as learning opportunities and not as burdens to be carried. Man has the natural capacity to be creative but it is not uniformly allotted. Some have more of this capacity than others. But just like an athlete who works on his muscles to increase his strength or an artist who practices to enhance his talent, creativity can be increased and developed with appropriate training and focus done in an environment that encourages innovation. The amount of training and its diversity are important factors as studies revealed that they are directly proportional to the creativity output. The following are tested ways to get a person on track. Maximising the use of all senses and avoiding self-censorship in brainstorming. Generating varieties of ideas, options and possibilities (asking “what if” questions) when approaching a challenge. Taking time off (creativity can be drowned by too many demands). Clearing space and finding new ways  to de-clutter. Cultivating an attitude of curiosity in all things. Trying out or exploring things that spark the interest. Exploring one’s polarity – that is, exploring the opposite of what one is. Allowing self to be surprised by something new every day. According to an IBM survey, the number one attribute CEOs look for in their incoming workforce is not discipline, integrity, or intelligence. It’s creativity.  It does not only give man the capacity to adapt to a fast-changing and technology-driven environment but it also gives him the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of innovation to make a difference in his life and in this world. Have you been living in a box? Are you running out of ideas in facing your problems? Need fresh ideas in sorting your life out? Have you been living in a box? Are you running out of ideas in facing your problems? Need fresh ideas in sorting your life out? Contact us today. by peoplebuilders peoplebuilders.com.au

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Virtual fencing to control stock

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This system, supported by CSIRO, works by giving audio cues to cattle through solar-powered smart collars as they approach the fence and a small electric pulse if they continue on. Over a short period of time, the cows learn to turn away when they hear the audio. If they do go as far as receiving the pulse, it’s significantly less than the shock of an electric fence, minimising any stress and ensuring welfare of the animals.  It can be used on properties to reduce expensive fencing and keep stock out of areas that are difficult to muster or control. https://blog.csiro.au/turns-can-teach-old-young-cows-new-tricks/

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A 3D printed device that could help you sleep better

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Sleep apnoea is a condition where the air passage in your throat becomes blocked during sleep and causes you to stop breathing. A new CSIRO-made solution can help. It’s a 3D-printed titanium mouthguard that lets air flow freely for you while you sleep. A clinical trial showed that 100% of patients experienced a significant reduction in snoring with 82% eliminating snoring completely. www.oventus.com.au

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