And what were YOU doing last night?
On a murky Monday evening in late October? I was at the Concert Hall as a guest of Prospectus at the 2nd of their Visions for Ireland series. Vision 1 was all about getting a bunch of leading movers and shakers and thinkers and leaders and visionaries (the normal kind they work with) into a room and having them engage with art in order to get them thinking. Last night, a similar bunch (plus me!) was invited to the Concert Hall to engage with music and then reflect on the following areas… in each group, a different musician began by playing and showing and opening up a little into the way of their world. This stimulated discussion in the groups, these are my notes taken on what was reported back:
- Protest: why do we not protest in Ireland? Is it because we have a sense of guilt? Is it because we feel complicit in what happened? This group, led by Sean Coughlan of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, also added that there has to be something to disagree about in order to have protest. So it left me with the question and answer session in my head: Why do we have no protest in Ireland? Because there is no vision. I mean that on a macro scale.
- Leadership: this group was stimulated by David Brophy, the Principal Conductor of the RTE Concert Orchestra. A good man to talk about leadership and the polyphonic nature of leading people. Ciaran O’hOgartaigh (Dean of UCD Business School) mentioned something that stayed with me “people don’t remember you for what you said; they remember you for how you made them feel.” I really like that.
- Internationalism: this group was stimulated by the Zairean musician, Niwel Tsumbu. The group explored the ideas of how internationalism is about learning – whether it’s immigrants assimilating to our culture, or us as we learn to love the different people who bring a new richness to our culture.
- Tradition & Values: this group questioned whether we are more American or European? Discussed facets of our national tradition that it’d be great to lose – the lack of confidence, begrudgery, greed, acceptance of mediocrity. And ones that would be great to nurture such as ambition (not greed), respect, and courage. Sam Coulter-Smith, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital made a point that the vision of the hospital back when it was founded was to give state-of-the-art care to women having their babies… and that vision is still the same today. A good vision doesn’t change, no matter what technology, society, economy are doing.
- Creativity: can it be taught? No. It is inherent. You just need to show people how to remember. Unblock the impediments that education imposes.
- Performance: we as Irish people need to reach out for a goal. Rather like the US made it their mission to put a man on the moon… we need a big audacious achievable goal to reach for as a collective group of talented people. All it takes is courage, passion, enthusiasm, and optimism… and good leaders who can sell us on a vision. (I saw plenty of those qualities at the Web Summit last week… how come it’s there in spades, but is not prevalent across the whole economy?)
- Technology - and finally, the group I was in. We had David Collier as our musician and he showed us a version of an app he’s working on that can be used in your headphones when you’re walking… the tempo speeds up when you do, and it brings in outside sounds that can be added to the soundscape… brought to mind Stephen O’Leary’s talk at DWS last week about using social media software to search for new product development requests… someone had asked for windscreen wipers that wipe in time to your tunes… well David is on to something here, with his app that plays in time to your groove… We talked a lot about education and the need for the curriculum to catch up with real life. This is something that is being discussed and explored at all levels of our community – it was a hot topic at DWS last week, and I’m hearing it everywhere.
At the Lord Mayor’s tea event the other week (my – haven’t I been around lately!) – it was discussed that Dublin has no CTO, no person or group of people who are responsibility for technology, and yet we have aspirations to be World Class for Digital Technology. It was also discussed about the difference between digital natives and digital immigrants…the view there (and I would subscribe to this) is that you can’t take everyone with you – if you try to come up with a digital policy for Dublin that will appeal to all: from people like you and me… right down to my mother who hasn’t got a mobile phone, doesn’t want one, and has no wish for an email address… then you’re going to have a watered down policy that does nothing for nobody.
In the technology group last night the general consensus was that we must bring everyone with us… even the ones who haven’t made the Saorview switch yet! This is at odds with what we reported back – ie. to be bold. To take bold steps in the area of technology and to have vision.
My vision is this: put a few people in charge who know what they’re doing. Give them some budget. Most importantly, give them a purpose, and then let them at it.
Whoever was in charge of Ballyfermot College back in the 1990′s who put some great animation teachers in did just this – everyone still talks about the classes of 1990′s who have themselves created hugely successful animation companies who employ lots of people and compete on a world stage. The decision to have a low corporate tax rate was another one. Even the man who came up with the idea to plant daffodils all the way from the airport on those grassy verges into town.. these are all little flickers of greatness whose legacy stands to us today.