As Melbourne Knowledge Week comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on some of the great things shared, the events that took place, and the awesome ideas on offer

#MKW17 was absolutely incredible. In it’s 6th year now, it feels as though it continues to get better and better every year. The 2017 hub located at the State Library became a place of meetings and showcasing. Phoria’s Immersive Media Lab was incredible, with tonnes of photos appearing on Twitter throughout the week.

Phoria - MKW
Pat from Phoria watches over kids in VR (Photo credit: Phoria)

Startup communities

My week kicked off with a startup breakfast on the Tuesday. Georgia Beattie from Startup Victoria and Travis Sheridan from Venture Cafe talked about the startup community we have here in Melbourne. They gave us a fantastic insight into what we need to do to make this place effective for everyone. Instead of saying that an ecosystem is a place that makes stuff happen, Georgia and Travis said what’s more important is creating an environment where success is more likely to happen. I believe this happens in ways that are unpredictable, unplanned. Just as Travis said, why should we have a place that attracts Fortune 500 companies, why can’t we have a place that MAKES those companies – words never spoken truer. Melbourne is a great city with a tonne of talent. Let’s foster that talent!

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Georgia and Travis talk statups

Since innovation is such a huge buzz word at the moment, here’s one of my favourite quotes from this breakfast on innovation – thanks for this one Travis:

“Most people think that innovation is simply a tool. Instead, we need to make it a mindset… [for example] we need to teach kids innovation so they can create the jobs of the future”

I wanted to end this breakfast recap on something that was a key focus. Instead of talking about ecosystems, we should talk more about communities. Startups, businesses, success, and more, aren’t built on environments. Yes they are built IN environments, but it’s the people who make a place really what it is. Let’s start talking more about communities!

What’s the future like?

A couple of great events throughout the week talked about the future. One was Carlton Connect’s ThoughtLAB-14, thinking about what the food of the future would be like, how would we communicate, and how would we live. Some interesting ideas were presented, including the concept that at the end of time, only two things will remain… cockroaches… and Nokia brick phones!

There were heaps of other events around future which I couldn’t get to; it’s a bit like that with so may events. Future food dinners, the future of work, and the future of artificial intelligence.

The future of Urban Planning was presented at General Assembly’s Screening of Gaming the Real World, a documentary on using MineCraft and City Skylines as a tool for urban planning. This documentary mainly followed “Block by Block” a joint initiative run by Mojang (the makers of Minecraft) and UN-habitat (a UN initiative for sustainable cities). The project takes current urban landscapes, builds them in Minecraft as they appear in real life, and presents the scene to a group of community members and gives them the opportunity to make the city the way they’d use it. It’s kind of like a hackathon – but gaming! Similar themes such as lightning, security, shared spaces, and safety emerged. I loved it some much I want to run something like this in Melbourne *scheming face* (let me know what you think in the comments).

This movie was followed by a panel of which I was felt privileged to moderate. We had a great discussion on the future of video gaming; how else it could be used as a platform for other similar projects. We spoke about the inclusion of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in adding extra layers to the design process. The viability of using video games in urban planning itself was discussed with the general consensus being “it’s a great place to start, but you can’t use video gaming completely to replace urban planners, designers, and architects” – so don’t worry all you people, you’ll still have jobs; they might just involve an element of video gaming.

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Moderating a gaming panel – yay (Photo credit: General Assembly Melbourne)

Working in Startups

On the Friday morning, ACMI-X and Two Square Pegs hosted a panel on what’s it like working in a startup. Again, I was very privileged to be on this panel alongside Doug from Culture Amp and Carolyn from Two Square Pegs. Hosted by the awesome Anna from That Startup Show, we had a very lively discussion. We kicked off the talk with what a startup actually is… here’s what we came up with:

  • A company in it’s infancy that has potential to scale
  • It involves a mindset of innovation, future, forward thinking, and agile development
  • Taking on risk
  • Usually underpinned by some sort of technology
  • Is a new idea or concept, or has a new take on something old, or an old take on something new

We had a great chat about the big movement towards startups, especially big corporate people leaving those jobs for the startup life. We had questions from the audience around capital raising, equity, how to hire people, creating the right culture in your business, and how to find the right founders. It was such a great breakfast and I even met some fans after the talk!

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Such a great panel with Melina Chan from Inspire9 (Photo credit: Anna Reeves)

Once this was all done and dusted, it was over to the ANZ building for their talk on inclusive technology and inclusive leadership.

The Power of Inclusivity

Unfortunately, coming straight from my last breakfast, I missed a chunk of the lightning talks, but I came in for the best part; panel discussion with Q&A!

First up, it was education. Apparently our education system is really bad! This ties into what Travis was talking about during the Tuesday breakfast. Our education system doesn’t teach kids how to be innovative, how to be inclusive, and how to be thinkers. It feel as though our education has taken a step backwards. The great thinker and teacher, Cardinal Newman, spoke very famously about the ideal of a university, and I believe we should take a leaf out of his book. He says a university (or any education system) shouldn’t teach you what to think, it should teach you HOW to think. We need to be more about teaching our kids to ask questions, to think about things, to look forward, to be better than us. Instead of creativity being stamped out, we should celebrate it, foster it, and encourage it.

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Awesome panel at ANZ including people from ANZ, IBM, BlueChilli, RoboGals, SheStarts, and BronTech

They also had a great discussion around failure which lead nicely into the Good F Word function hosted by Carlton Connect. A group of leaders were invited in for a speed dating workshop where they talked about their failure…

Failure

Failure isn’t something that should be frowned upon, nor however, do I think it should be “celebrated”. Instead of celebrating the failure itself, I think we should celebrate the learnings from it. In Science, we don’t celebrate what goes wrong in an experiment, but we do rejoice in what we learnt from it. Hence the word “experiment”. Failure should be seen as trial and error. Real failures only happen when we don’t learn from the things we are trying out. So, don’t celebrate your failure, celebrate what you learnt from it, built on it, and keep trying until you succeed… then have a big celebration!

HACKATHONS

Okay, so Melbourne Knowledge Week wouldn’t be MKW anymore without a hackathon… or two, or three! Yes that’s right, three hackathons for MKW with the City of Melbourne coming on board last minute to sponsor the AngelHack hackathon happening at the Dream Factory. I will talk about each briefly;

Hack the Streets

A follow from last year’s Hack the Streets hackathon, General Assembly posed the theme Transport, resilience, and urban cities for MKW17. Participants had a mere five hours to solve problems relating to transport congestion, high stress, and urban sprawl. I only came in towards the end to judge 11 fantastic ideas.

Each of the teams came up with great ideas around car pooling, utilising existing services to encourage people not to rely so much on public transport, improving our current PT services, and using data to inform our decisions. In the end, the winning team had an idea to use existing services and enhance the experience for travellers. Why they reallt stood out from the crowd is they had honed in on the problem, had good answers to why they addressed that particular problem, had identified the benefits and shortcomings, had a vision for future development of the idea, and had thought about who they could partner with to make it happen. Congrats to Stress Heads for your great pitch. I do hope this idea goes ahead, as I would love to see more artwork on trams and in the public spaces, turning dull boring commutes into something fun.

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Getting ready to hear from some great pitches

Night at the Museum

With the weather turning for the worst and a hectic week of MKW17 already, I wasn’t able to physically get to this one… but that’s the great thing about the digital world right, we can be connected! I got up early, and checked out all the tweets from the hack. Phoria were involved in babysitting for the night, and I also suspect, giving great ideas on how to use VR as a means to engage visitors.

This pic below is one of my favourites. Seriously, look how cool this picture is! You have a dinosaur at a hackathon! It’s so amazing.

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Opening Hack Night at the Museum with some ancient creatures (Photo credit: @Shonkhanna)

Anyways, back to the hackathon itself. The participants were taught lean thinking and put it into action. Prototypes with lego were built, games were played, and sticky notes were in abundance. It looks like such a fun hackathon and I hope you all run it again!

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Agile thinking in practice (Photo credit: Nik McGrath)

Hack the City

We’ve hacked the streets, we’ve hacked the museum, and now it’s time to hack the city with AngelHack’s 10th global hackathon. Run at one of Melbourne’s newest co-working spaces, the DreamFactory, participants gathered for a pure code hack. Everyone had only two days to build something from scratch; fresh code, fresh thinking, and fresh people. Come up with whatever you want to, with challenges around urban design, hardware, and future thinking.

This is part of a global hackathon, and we’re lucky enough to have the global CMO, Brian here with us for the weekend. We’ve had a tonne of fun so far – checking out the awesome Inspire9 DreamFactory, playing Zelda, and catching some lovely weather on the rooftop.

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Brian from AngelHack opening #AH10

I won’t say too much more, as this article is already long enough, so check out the Tweets on #MKW17 and look out for the winners being announced later in the day. Peace out everyone and enjoy some knowledge. Oh and let me know what you think about any of the ideas in this article in the comments below.

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