Why it pays to have imagination

In Australian agriculture, we have many businesses that have not invested in further education

WITH minds freshly conditioned and full of financial fog, the survivors of our moth-eaten education system have settled, and it seems some of them have gone back to the family farm.

But we have a fiscal infection, and I believe it’s the major contributor to rural debt that’s eating away at our nation. As factors like drought peel back the fat and market prices carve off the meat, we’re left fumbling with the bloodied raw carcase that is financial illiteracy.

Of course financial illiteracy isn’t unique to rural Australia by any stretch, yet it is often compounded in family-run and home-based businesses which shun external involvement.

The common conditioning we all endured was our education system, but consider what Albert Einstein said: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school”.

Since I’ve started an executive MBA I often find myself grimacing from a battle in my brain when it becomes clear success in this field will rely on my ability to 'un-learn' as much as I learn.

My earlier education created ways of thinking that are starving my personal and professional life of creativity, imagination and anything else that may enable me to ‘think outside the square’, which is where great things often happen.

Of course I used to think freely - we all did as kids - but when school starts and our minds are loaded onto the conveyer belt of standardised education, the cookie cutter process begins. In cases like mine, when my brain and body rejected the lessons and methods of delivery, young people are now medicated!

I saw a classic example earlier this year as I watched a 6-year-old boy learning via distance education, an effective, publicly driven State system. I knew this boy well and he was smart, observant and very creative, but it broke my heart as I watched him respond to the tightening bolts.

An issue arose and he asked “Why can’t I think about it like that?”

The answer: “Because it’s wrong”.

Why? The system says so ... the boy was confused, but his frustration was smothered by innocence and trust in the elders delivering the material. The system had a little win, but what did we lose?

In Australian agriculture, we have many businesses that have not invested in further education or any ‘un-learning’. Some farmers run businesses on pathways constricted by ways of thinking that focus on what previous generations have done.

They shun new ideas and, even worse, they deprive themselves to the point of not asking questions.

It’s not wrong, it’s not right, but farming isn’t what it was, and if it’s not working, real change is needed.

With change in mind, asking questions and no shortage of 'outside the square thinking', it was very exciting to see James Walker have success with his Agrihive summit last month at Longreach, Queensland.

James built a meeting of minds we’ve never seen before, by flying contributors and thought leaders in from all over Australia, leaving their roles in various sectors at home. Rural debt was on the menu, and from the multimedia that followed it looked a feast.

The summit focused on addressing financial illiteracy in rural Australia. With drought in mind he created the “Kidworth” case study with Mick Keogh from the Australian Farm Institute. They picked apart a struggling atypical business common in Queensland and nearby states.

Agrihive is building a comprehensive database that will help develop innovations to deliver relief for farmers wanting to turn their businesses around, and they’re designing programs to suit all areas of a farm businesses that are impacted by financial illiteracy.

My hat is off to James for his imaginative thinking, because, as author, speaker and international advisor on education Ken Robinson said: “Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement, and it's the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardising in the way we educate our children and ourselves.”

For more information on the Kidworth case study go to the Agrihive website.

Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.


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