Saturday, April 19, 2008

2020: Speed Dating for economists

“Speed dating” and red stickers were among the tools used by economists to hammer out agreement during the first day of the 2020 Summit.

The 100-odd participants in the economics group were asked to first form a pair with someone they hadn’t met before and then come up with an idea they were both passionate about. After that the pair had to meet another pair and do the same thing, and then meet another group and form a group of eight.

One member of that group had to write a quick description of the surviving idea on a folded A4 sheet of paper, hold it aloft and then try to attract other people holding pieces of paper on which were written similar ideas.

“The sounds more chaotic than it is, but trust me it usually works,” the moderator assured them.

“What we are going to see is an organic grouping of people, and we will probably also see one or two of you lonely holding an idea above your head all by yourself as well.”

“That’s okay, we will come and talk to you. It will self-organise.”

“You have to get a market for the idea,” the moderator assured those who were unsure. “Stand up and search for people with common interests. Don’t make your interest too narrow or you won’t find any friends.”

Dignitaries including the former head of Westpac David Morgan, the head of the Industry Department Peter Boxall, Lindsay Fox, Lachlan Murdoch and Bernie Fraser played along.

The ideas were sorted into four, plus an extra group entitled “other” and then the participants divided into four. Using butchers’ paper and red dot stickers they refined their ideas and assessed their popularity arguing for what seemed a very long time over the wording.

The four groups will get together and share the ideas tomorrow.