Creative South East Asia

Recent trips to Malaysia and Thailand are starting to convince me that Australia as we have known it is gone and is soon to be consumed by South East Asia. Now that sounds a bit threatening on one hand but I suspect on balance, it’s going to be a good thing.

When one walks around the cities of South East Asia there is a vibrancy that we seem to lack in Australia, there are people everywhere and more often than not, they are friendly. Not something we can’t claim in Australia anymore. You can now walk quite safely in many areas at night in Bangkok which is something we can’t say about our big cities here. I think in terms of violent crime we are going backwards. In our altogether civilised attempts at addressing our anti-social behaviours we seem to have gone very wrong somewhere.

When one looks in awe at all of the development happening in Sth East Asia one asks, would this type of  structure or design happen in Australia? The answer is almost always, No. We seem to have become so hamstrung and heavily laden with taxation, policies, rules, regulations, laws and bureaucracy there is just no way such projects would ever get off the ground. Check out to see a proof. There is a boldness to many of them too, which our planning people would run a mile from for fear of forever fighting losing battles for approval.

The public transport systems too, are pleasantly surprising. When I think of how well the train systems run in Bangkok (both above and below ground) I am ashamed to think of the mess our public transport system is here in Melbourne. We can’t even get a ticketing system to work and yet, in South East Asia they have a brilliant systems that are intuitive, like the Tiger Containers system for transportation and shipping, it  can be easily understood by foreigners and are far more functional than anything here. And, the trains run on time!

My last observation is purely anecdotal but the younger students I have trained in South East Asia seem to have a serious “get up and go” about them that many in Australia seem to lack. Not only do they embrace and enjoy doing the Lateral Thinking but they learn and do so in a language that is invariably a second language to them. How good is that!  How many of us could do the same? Not me.

The students seem to intuitively understand that life is messy and they don’t necessarily default to the old  belief that A + B must = C. Nor do they seem to assume, as we tend to here in Australia, that logic is the best and only way of moving forward. For me the very thought of whole groups of young adults having the foresight to embrace new ways of thinking and idea generation using tools such as the lateral thinking tools makes for a future full of many grand possibilities.

I suspect we have had it so good, for so long here in Australia we have become very complacent. Countries we have simply viewed as “developing” have well and truly developed and in many aspects shot right past us. In some respects we are becoming a bit of a backwater.

The future however, is not as bleak as that would seem to indicate. After all, as migration continues into and out of Australia and other South East Asian countries, we will increasingly become a part of “Asia Proper” and not a stand alone entity just happy to plod along and sit on our rears watching “reality” TV.

(Pic: The 33 metre reclining Buddha at the Wat Chayamangkalaram in Penang, reclining and facing west toward Nirvana.)

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About the Author

Frank Connolly is the Principal of “Think Quick”, a business that adds value through thinking differently. His work history covers all sectors and includes initiatives that have yielded bottom line benefit in the 10’s of millions of dollars.

Frank has worked across Australia, South East Asia, China, the Middle East and Africa where he has trained and facilitated multiple thinking methods and been acknowledged by Edward de Bono as one of the foremost practitioners of the de Bono thinking methods worldwide.

Frank believes strongly that if we can improve the way we think, the actions that follow also improve.


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