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Monday 13 June 2011

New ideas for old problems

I love quotes. I use them in presentations, articles and occasionally in conversation (but rarely because they make the user sound pompous). They are often taken out of context and used for purposes that the originator had never intended. But sometimes I just can't help myself. When used properly a great quote can encapsulate a feeling or an idea like very little else. And so, knowing that it was perhaps never intended to be used in this way I would like to invoke the memory of Albert Einstein, who is quoted as having said "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking that created them."

In that one sentence it is obvious why we continue to struggle with the same issues again and again. It's because we try to deal with them by using the same solutions again and again. I'm not sure why we can't seem to get out of the rut of trying the exact same processes to fix the same problems and actually expect to get a different result. As a quick note I want to be clear that the problems we face in NL are complex and varied, and that they are not easily solved by anyone. But, we seem to be unable to try new things. Politicians keep dragging out the old tried and true ideas of blaming others (i.e. Ottawa), or throwing money at it and somehow hoping that the situation will fix itself.

As individuals we are intelligent, passionate and innovative. I have seen people display some incredible problem solving abilities that have left me in awe. And I'm not talking about PhD Grads, I'm talking about people who can solve problems by applying knowledge, experience and courage to problem. As a collective I have wondered if we have lost our passion or our fighting spirit. But I know that we are a passionate and intelligent people. But yet we seem to be largely unable to break out of the standard box of ideas.

In part I should say that it is not always regular people who are afraid to try new things. It is often politicians who are afraid their popularity will suffer for trying something new. Because the one thing that new ideas bring with them is risk. But without risk there can be no reward. We need to stop listening to politicians when they tell us things we know are not accurate. There are very few simple solutions, and certainly we have to try new things if we ever wish to make things better.

One of the biggest issues we currently face is a near complete lack of planning, creativity and willingness to try anything. The current administration has put a great deal of effort on not doing what needs to be done. Seemingly because they know it's hard and messy work and will not be popular with everyone. This can be said for issues like the municipal, agricultural and forestry sectors. Then there's the fishery. The approach there seems to be to wait it out until the industry just dies an unnatural death.

This is not an attempt at a partisan argument. A good idea is a good idea, no matter what person or party brings it forward. And I know there are people in this province who have new and innovative ideas on how to make things better, because I hear them on Open Line and I read them in the Letters to the editor of the Province's papers. But is anyone listening?

It seems only fitting that I also end with a quote. John Cage was an American composer, philosopher and poet, and in this one quote he states the simple reality of how we should feel about new ideas. "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." To expand a common phrase we don't just need to start "thinking outside the box," we need to set the box on fire and get on with addressing the issues!

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