In the centre of London, a mild day, just off thread needle street which nestles in the heart of the UK’s financial juggernauts, the entrance to Mansion House foyer seemed unusually quiet. I walked in, dutifully took my seat alongside entrepreneurs, CEOs and politicians awaiting the arrival of the speaker.
Enter, Li Keqiang, one of the world’s most powerful men; the Vice-Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.
Diplomatic presentations tend to stay in their lane unpacking a quietude of expressions to sooth attendants, yet part way through the VP’s talk, with a chuckle, and barely noticeable, he said this.
I know think tanks are devoted to thinking which is more abstract than the figures and mathematics which looks more visionary and full of wisdom. But anyway, figures are the foundation.
As an economist Li Keqiang is known as a pragmatist. When he was a governor, and one of the youngest in the party for the historical province of Henan, he took to the hustings to find ways to transform the region. His comment was a diplomat’s dig at Brits and their penchant for thinking.
But equally important, this. They way the West and Brits think derivative of several canonised philosophers e.g. Descarte, “I think therefore I am”, which I’ve written about earlier being challenged by an African scholar at the time.
The West’s thinking based around solidified models of knowledge and learning has lead to huge leaps in enterprise, intellect and epistemologies, but as systems theres a rigidity to forms that can also stymie creativity, particularly when it’s time to cross lanes — and it’s not apparent. One of the emerging sources for this disparity can be observed in the West versus East philosophies way of accomplishing tasks.
TECH CULTURE EAST VERSUS WEST
Once derided as the copycat culture, China’s startup and AI network has become a patent-busting global force. On the startup stage some of the world’s biggest techs are Chinese. Ten points if you can name these leading tech giants and the absence of any women for this particular example does not diminish their contribution. They are founders of the world’s top ten tech companies? Answer below.
In his book AI Super Powers CEO and writer Kai Fu Lee draws differences from China’s Market driven approach versus the West’s Mission driven edict. Assembling a mission statement requires a strategy that is centrally command controlled. Decision making requires top down meetings of think tanking. Kai Fu Lee shows how Chinese tech companies focus on the market and fleet of foot facilitates rapid responses and localised solutions, whilst building a generation of millennial tech entrepreneurs.
But there’s something else that undergirds this simplicity and one that would attract me to program building after my dotcom days. At the heart of problem-solving, conceptual analogous thinking rather than procedural approaches is encouraged and nurtured. The former works across lanes looking for patterns to stimulate innovation, the latter tends to stay in them.
Here’s an example. The nominal strategy in ideation is to find exemplars within the same field for adoption which has come to be defined in the Lean startup approach. News making is a good example. Look at what your competitor is doing and then raid their ideas before iteration. The perennial news package has retained its now tired style because each technology that emerges e.g. mobile adopts its form.
A pair of my Masters students posed the question. “Why do young people watch a movie of a news event, but won’t watch the event itself on news and would cinema solve the problem?”. They were engaging in exaptation — crossing their lanes, looking for a solutions as extolled Steve Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From
The approach then has been to create a startup culture inside academia simulating real-world experiences, where traditional lectures are parked for pecha kucha solution conversations. Cinema, design, AI, gaming and related disciplines are at the heart of the programme, and students are paired with mentors from world class leading tech hubs, like Tramshed Tech and tech pioneers in London e.g. Lee Robertson’s Octo 8 Group.
It’s been done before at previous places of work, which include broadcasters, ad agencies, dotcoms and academic institutions — where amongst others I headed up online programmes. Last September on a more traditional programme some of the ideas were trialled with students whose responses include the following:
Emerging Journalism and AI
Toby White is the CEO of Marketmate. At the age of 10 he was writing his own programmes. In university as an undergrad, he was tackling projects that were PhD based learning. His AI platform creates headlines and auto social media tweets from inputed key words, thus eliminating the need for social media writers.
Toby is one of several mentors who interact with students on our module which is heavily online based, using slack.
The idea is to create an agency-theme to creating projects and problem-solving. They learn to develop multiple parallel ideas that compete for their attention; work together across ideas that may be posed differently in their cultures, thus exposing them to different thought processes; analyse broader systems in exemplar researching and test gut reactions.
This may look like anything but journalism, but the storytelling is embedded across different structures, refined into social presentations that start of in class, in small board rooms, public spaces and then Ted-x like venues.
A co-creative way of running the programme derives from Bansho in Japan which stimulates teams to develop multiple connections across problem solving, usually in maths. Students evaluate their interconnected methods.
For that we developed our own model taking into account Bansho, Lean and Google sprints, which we’ve abbreviated as S.A.C.K.E.D. which I’ll talk about in greater detail in another post. It stands for Systems Analyse. Creativity. Knowledge ( needed). Evaluate and edit. Then, deliver.
People who can think broadly and adapt ideas across diverse cultures in this new world will excel. This is the essence of David Epstein’s provocative and absorbing book, “Range — How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”, which makes a powerful argument for generalists attaining success rather than specialists.
Key findings polled from businesses e.g. KPMG should become the norm: that is creativity, problem-finding, collaboration, emotional intelligence and communication skills. Skills that aren’t just words on a a page, but call on an a psychological understanding and spatial awareness of the neuro scientific affects on audiences.
These photos taken from presentations almost two weeks ago are illustrations of storytellers and journalists crossing their lanes whilst expressing themselves on different platforms.
Below, Farah and Shanna demo their idea for an app to assist students with stress and mental problems. Having presented their ideas and attracted wide praise from their colleagues, mentors and emerging team, they’ve mothballed it to move onto new challenges.
Meanwhile, the journey of their novel idea will only serve to strengthen their next individual project as they evaluate their progress and build upon their skills. This is how new Multi Hyphenated Thinkers solve problems
Emerging Journalism: Storytelling Lab is run by Dr David Dunkley Gyimah and James Taylor. David a former network and international journalist is the recipient of several awards around innovation. He’s worked in dotcoms in 2000 and the media since 1990. A Maths and Chemistry grad, he was one of fifteen UK figures (alongside the London Philharmonic Orchestra appointed as artists in residence at the Southbank Centre. His current project is AI and the Future of News. He was one of Jon Snow’s producer at Channel 4 News.He was recently voted one of the top 40 Ghanaians in the UK.
Answer to above