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How embracing discomfort can lead to innovation

As technology advances at an unprecedented rate, it’s normal to feel a little uncomfortable about the future. But one young innovator says there is nothing to worry about: if considered in the right way, the future is actually rather friendly.

Presenting a keynote address at Ozwater’20 Online, UTS Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation’s Rhiannon Tuntevski said in this day and age – one where household appliances can talk – technology can be unnerving. 

But learning to embrace this discomfort prepares us for growth. 

“When was the last time you were uncomfortable? It’s a cliche, but it certainly rings true that times of discomfort are often the times of our greatest growth and times of our greatest innovations,” Tuntevski said. 

"If we start to ask these questions of our teams, we'll get to the heart of our challenges much faster than we would by defaulting back to the things that we know work. 

“If we can push ourselves to understand discomfort, we can push ourselves to respond in new and groundbreaking ways.”

Tuntevski said one important part of working through discomfort was being comfortable with not having all the answers, and even with not fully understanding how every part of the process works.

“When we're thinking about the future, we're thinking about innovation, and one of the things we can do is acknowledge that we're never going to understand the full gamut of technology available to us,” she said. 

“We’re never going to have all of the answers, but if we can work out our boundaries, we can work out who we need to help answer those questions for us.

“There are so many ways we can learn and take things in. There’s a real power in being able to understand what these technologies can do, but not necessarily having to understand how they do it.”

Understanding the future

Being able to comprehend how new technologies can be used helps to demystify the future, according to Tuntevski, and to understand that we are actually the ones in control. 

“We're all humans that have finite brain space and we'll meet some things that we never completely comprehend. But if we can have ideas about how we can use technologies, they become less scary,” she said.

“The future is really friendly. The future has a lot of good stuff in store for us. And the more that we inspect it, the more that we clarify it, the more that we demystify it, the more we can work out how to make it work for ourselves and our organisations.”

Tuntevski encouraged delegates to consider how they face challenges in their workplace, and how facing the uncomfortable with curiosity can help to strengthen a business.

“Are you making sure you're creating a culture that values the human contribution?” she asked.

“Have more conversations about the things that scare you and lean into the unknown, because technology is doing the most beautiful job at making us inspect what it means to be a human.

“The more that we do these things, the clearer the future gets.”

To learn more about Ozwater’20 Online and to register, click here.