12 Australian thinkers you should know about
In a world where we're bombarded with information and our attention is scattered, the value of deep thinking is greater than ever. Here are just some of the people (in no particular order) who take time out to stop and think - and thankfully to write and speak, because we love the result. Who would you add to the list?
Matt Wicking thinks about the deep and dark issues relating to climate change and sustainability - but uses humour and creativity to present them in a way that creates positive energy. As a musician, writer, presenter and facilitator his gift is making complex ideas simple and beautiful. Matt does the deep thinking, rumination and exploration of these issues for us, so we get to benefit from his clarity and wisdom. An experience with Matt as a thinker is an experience of a master facilitator, an enthraller of crowds and an enchanting musician who can have even the most sceptical audience eating out of the palm of his hand, thanks to the thought he applies to any interaction. An example of the deep thought Matt applies to his work: every time he MCs for an event, Matt starts with what he calls an Acknowledgment of Context: taking a moment to acknowledge the context in which we gather - one where the impact the human species is having in our environment is significant (see more here). Matt works with ‘good people doing good stuff’ and makes us have important conversations. TW: @mattwicking
Cameron Tonkinwise thinks about sustainable design and particularly, the emerging field of Transition Design. His ideas have helped the design community to see the opportunities as well as the limitations of using design thinking and service design to solve large-scale social and environment issues, and the importance of supporting sustainable futures by moving towards multi-level structural and societal change over long time frames. Design thinking has particularly shaped our understanding of how to solve sustainability challenges through a framework which includes four areas of knowledge that co-evolve and work with each other (vision, theories of change, mindset or posture and new ways of designing). Cameron writes on topics such as design thinking, the political philosophy behind design interaction and sustainable service systems in his Medium blog. TW: @camerontw
Kalinya means ‘good, beautiful, honest’ in Jirra Lulla’s language, that of the Yorta Yorta people of Northern Victoria. Jirra says that she chose this name as “a constant reminder to practice Aboriginal ways of working” while she operates in the contemporary business world. Through Kalinya’s work, Jirra does an exceptional job of promoting positive images of Aboriginality through communications and events consultancy. She is vocal on the application of Indigenous wisdom to the modern business world, but also attests that Aboriginal communities have always been business savvy. In a recent piece for The Guardian, Jirra explains that Indigenous businesses are value-led businesses with environmental sustainability and purpose embedded naturally into their business process. Examples, such as the use of locally sourced materials and the respect for nature’s seasonal changes, show how these communities have been successful in running businesses that are in synchrony with Earth’s systems, and why we should learn from them to solve issues such as climate change. TW: @KalinyaComm
Jess Scully is a creative force. She’s a cultural strategist, event director, public art curator and active campaigner on the importance of a creative economy. Jess is passionate about using creativity and art to inspire social change and she seeks to curate projects that inspire curiosity and spark conversations. She has been featured in the Sydney Morning Herald and tweets (extremely frequently) at @jessaroo. Her thinking is highly influential amongst other creatives, thinkers and professionals in Sydney. As anyone who has worked with her knows she pulls together threads to give intelligent comment on big ideas, and moves issues forward onto the public agenda. She has done this as curator of Vivid Ideas, TEDx Sydney and now in her role as Councillor at City of Sydney. She is advocating cleverly but also charismatically on important issues; from housing affordability to public space use and food waste. The list of people she has interviewed is star studded, including Stefan Sagmeister, Johnny Cupcakes and Drew Berry.
Simon Longstaff is the Executive Director of the Ethics Centre. Named as one of AFR Boss’ True Leaders for the 21st century, Simon regularly speaks about ethics in the 21st century, the future of work and the importance of making ethical decisions in contemporary business. Simon speaks and writes about contemporary issues such as artificial intelligence, criminal justice and corporate ethics and although he is an expert in the field, he rarely takes sides in these moral debates. On the contrary, he is famously known for exploring the ‘grey’ areas between right and wrong. Simon has been featured in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Financial Review on his work with large corporations such as the Commonwealth Bank. The Ethics Centre feature him and other experts regularly in workshops and events (see here). TW: @SimonLongstaff
Chris Raine was a young Brisbane professional working in advertising when he was asked to come up with a proposal for a youth-oriented campaign to change the culture around binge drinking. After pitching a few ideas, he realised that none of them would have any effect on changing his own drinking behavior. This got him thinking: Why had it become socially acceptable for his Gen Y peer group to spend every weekend alternating between being drunk and hungover? Chris decided to give up drinking for a year. On his second Sunday sober, he began to blog about a sober Sunday morning, and launched Hello Sunday Morning or HSM. Chris thinks hard about our alcohol culture and other drug habits and seeks to understand how we can design better solutions to harmful drug use. Hello Sunday Morning has recently launched Daybreak last year, an app designed to help people reduce their alcohol consumption and better manage stress and challenges in life. It is an evidence-based app which gives users unlimited access to trained health coaches, weekly reviews and community support. He is currently writing a book about his own journey, and his relationship with drugs that led him to create HSM and to where he is today. TW: @ckraine
Michael Bradley is not your typical lawyer. After making it up through the ranks at a conventional law firm and realising it wasn’t as fun as he thought it would be, Michael wrote a book ‘Kill all the Lawyers’ and started the law firm Marque in 2008 with the goal of “completely changing the way law is practised”. Setting out to disprove the theory that all lawyers are boring, over-worked and over-priced, Marque’s model has seen great success. At the same time, Michael has been vocal and active on issues ranging from marriage equality, through to Indigenous Australia, and even on the balance of career and parenthood in the legal profession. He says of Marque’s position on mothers returning to work: “In an industry where so many working mothers simply give up trying to balance work and parenthood, our 100 per cent mum-retention rate is something special". A radical thinker and unconventional lawyer, who isn’t afraid to make his opinion known about a range of issues important to Australia’s future, we have to agree that he’s one of the most sane voices in the Australian political landscape at the moment. Michael tweets via @marquelawyers, and regularly writes about his thoughts on The Drum and Crikey.
Sally co-founded Wildwon in 2012 and the Purpose conference in 2015. She’s a sustainability and experience design expert and writes about a range of topics from the practise of experience design to the evolution of responsible and ethical business. Sally is one of the leading voices in the conversation and movement around purpose-driven and future-focussed business and she regularly speaks about this positive movement changing business as usual. Her thinking has been profiled in VICE ‘How activist Sally Hill is keeping corporate Australia accountable’, Eco Business on ‘Why millennials are driving the sustainable brand revolution’, Pro Bono Australia on ‘Rethinking business models with purpose’, The Real Unreal challenging the ideas that women “aren’t creative”’, The Vocal ‘Five lessons from a Sydney entrepreneur on how to take the right risks’ in entrepreneurship as well as the design of cities, and on business blogs including Zendesk and the Xero podcast - have a read or a listen and you’ll get a better idea of why Sally is among this list of thinkers. TW: @sallyrhill
Sally-Ann believes in the power of education to transform lives. A vocal advocate for education, innovation and diversity in STEM fields, Sally-Ann is the Engineering Community and Outreach Program Manager at Google Australia where she leads efforts in CS/STEM education. Her focus is on building partnerships with key stakeholders, such as universities, government bodies and not-for-profits, to drive the innovation research agenda. Sally-Ann regularly speaks about gender equality and the importance of diversity in technology encouraging women into STEM fields. She recently spoke at VIVID Sydney about creativity and computer science, Wildwon’s own Link Festival about ‘CS+X’ or the power Computer Science when combined with a creative or human X factor, and at Vogue Codes about her work in education and technology. Sally-Ann writes regularly for The Australian. TW: @sallyannw
Dr. Jason Fox
Dr Jason Fox is an expert in motivation strategy and design who shows forward-thinking leaders how to influence culture and build for the future of work. Through cleverness, artfulness and wordplay he creates a unique approach to communicating the complex challenges he is passionate about: pioneering leadership, the science of motivation and the future of work. With his incredible partner and collaborator Kim Lam, Jason’s team at ‘The Cleverness’ pulls together The Future of Leadership and Clever Happenings, a think tank focused on contemporary insights in leadership, culture and work that takes place regularly in Melbourne. Jason has published a handful of bestsellers, including ‘The Game Changer’, a book about the science of motivation and game design to drive progress, and ‘How to lead a Quest’, a handbook for pioneering executives. As if he wasn’t doing enough pondering and publishing, he is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Cleverness Biannual, an independent magazine ‘venturing beyond conventional wisdom’. TW: @drjasonfox
Nick is a different type of leader in the Australian tech scene. His thinking and writing is diverse but, with a history in health tech, a great deal of it centres around the importance of putting people first, listening to your body, getting a good sleep and surrounding yourself with people who are inspiring and good to you. He’s a challenger of conventional wisdom in the tech and health worlds, vocal on areas where he feels that our health is being impinged upon or our behaviour is being designed for us - clear in his comment on the food industry ‘The world is fucking insane’ and how ‘We do sick wrong’, particularly at work. Nick is a partner at Blackbird Ventures, a startup incubator which invests in Australian ideas with global ambition, and he also runs Startmate, an Australian accelerator. A serial entrepreneur, Nick has co-founded several successful startups. He writes regularly in his Medium account about all things tech, along with insights about his life and work and the importance of ethics in the way we design technology and behaviour. TW: @nickcrocker
Dr Alessandro Demaio, or Sandro as he likes to be called, is on a quest to transform the way we eat. Trained and working as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, in 2012 he relocated to Denmark where he completed a PhD with the University of Copenhagen. Sandro writes regularly about our food system, marketing strategies used by food giants, the links between diet and disease and the relationship between diabetes and obesity (which currently affects over 27.9%* of Australians nowadays - and is on the rise). A leader in public policy, Sandro advocates for a ‘sugar tax’ and the need for better regulation when it comes to FMCG. He has been featured on the ABC show “Ask the Doctor’ and regularly tweets at @SandroDemaio.