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A focus on alternative and creative thinking was how Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology connected with innovation during last week’s Groundswell Festival in Tauranga.
At the Tuesday launch of the creative industries student exhibition Resist, Imagine, Create, renowned Mt Maunganui artist, designer and innovator Laurie Steer invited guests to observe that all innovation is born from creative thinking.
“Creativity is the ability or desire to think alternatively about something, to test and explore, to go on an adventure. You cannot have innovation without creative thinking,” he said.
“The value of arts in the community is often overlooked, but everything about our life is art and design, and creative people are responsible for many of the things we do and use every day.”
Laurie is a mentor on Toi Ohomai’s Bachelor of Creative Industries (BCI) and tells students that art school is a great opportunity to take risks, test the waters and learn that having business nous in the creative sector is crucial.
“Jobs for artists don’t exist; it’s an identity not a job. But artists can use their creative skills in so many other ways and a lot has to do with collaboration, because it’s very difficult to do interesting commercial innovative work in isolation; you’ve got to work with other great people,” he says.
“Innovators bend existing things and constantly seek improvement – it’s high risk on the edge and normally takes a few people to push each other to get something new to happen.”
As an example, Laurie, a ceramic artist, is also a director for software design company HWEM, where he collaborates with others to build “awesome things with technology”, most recently, the Gaspy App, which helps thousands of people, daily, find the cheapest fuel in their area. He also works with others on innovative commercial building projects – The Papamoa Beach Tavern and refurbishment of Astrolabe Brew Bar at The Mount are examples of his innovative design work.
Innovative real world outcomes
The Resist, Imagine, Create exhibition was open to the public during the week and celebrated the work of Toi Ohomai’s third-year creative industries students, who themed their multi-media works on ‘imagined futures’. At a campus Open Day on Friday, artists and prospective students had an opportunity to find out about the popular Bachelor of Creative Industries course and talk to tutors about pathway options.
“BCI students are always working towards a real world outcome,” says Mary Stewart, Group Manager Creative. “They learn to marry their creative brain with their business brain by coming up with a product that makes money. They learn how to think critically, research and validate their ideas.
“There are no ‘jobs’ for artists; generally what happens is likeminded people come together with an idea or a project, so we are developing a community of practice and students are learning how to collaborate and work together.”
IT knowledge sharing
Looking at creative thinking from another perspective, Groundswell also provided the ideal platform for Toi Ohomai to host the inaugural Rhubarb Innovation Summit – a one-day event bringing together the Bay’s IT professionals.
Rhubarb is an IT knowledge sharing group made up of Bay organisations with large IT teams. Its aim is to foster IT innovation by collaborating and sharing experiences rather than reinventing the wheel, and helping each other solve mutual IT challenges.
At the summit, a range of local, national and international speakers shared case-studies around digital transformation, generating plenty of innovative thinking, said Toi Ohomai Head of IT, and Rhubarb member, Rabindra Das.
“Groundswell is generating a lot of momentum and these kinds of events create a really good vibe in the Bay to attract skilled IT professionals to live and work here. Hopefully people walked away with more knowledge as to the IT direction they may want to take in their organisations.”