stupid innovations

Right off the top I’d like to emphasise that my crankiness here has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m up in Cairns, but stuck in my hotel room writing up a consulting report. Absolutely nothing.

While taking a break from the writing to get some lunch, I took a quick walk out to the tidal flats. The first time that Nancy and I visited here we were blown away by how great the mudflats were for birds. This is the place where we saw our first ever beach stone-curlew, and it’s a location revered by visiting birders. That first time we visited, we noticed some construction going on at the end of the beach, but didn’t think much of it. Yesterday when we arrived, we discovered what they had been building:


Yep. They’ve built an artifical beach, right next to the actual beach! It was very disconcerting last night to take a stroll next to the ocean and smell chlorine from the gigantic swimming pool that they built right next to the world’s biggest swimming pool. Apparently, the problem with the bay here in Cairns is that there is a whole lot of mud, but because of the way they’ve built things, there’s not much sand – it’s all eroded away and not been replaced because the buildings obstruct the flow of new sand. So while the beach here is fantastic for birders like me and Nancy, it hasn’t been so good for people that really, really want to have skin cancer when they get older. Ummm, I mean for people that like sunbathing. And since cancer seekers outnumber birders by a fairly enormous margin up here in Cairns, the obvious way around that problem is to build a huge fake beach.

Fortunately, there are enough birders around that doing so didn’t completely ruin the bird habitat after their outcry over the original plans. Still, this strikes me as a classic example of an innovation that isn’t paying too much attention to the critical fourth dimension, time. And overall, it’s a project that strikes me as pretty stupid, across a number of dimensions. The fake beach is obviously wildly popular, but then, so are smoking and Britney Spears, so I’m not convinced that’s the most useful metric to use in assessing the new fake-beach-next-to-the-real-beach innovation.

ps – just for reference, here’s a beach stone-curlew:

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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4 thoughts on “stupid innovations

  1. Thanks for the AWESOME pics! So beautiful there!

    This critical fourth dimension disregard reminds me of the fake, air-conditioned beach now never to happen in Dubai, where they dump raw sewage. Only not quite as bad, but still, chlorine, ugh. Isn’t that why you go to the ocean and not to the Holiday Inn’s pool?

    I was on a beach just the other day touching sea anemones. (I know, I shouldn’t.. but getting my clumsy human fingers on nature beats cementing & chlorining it. :D) The deep blue tide pools were awesome, they quickly became so deep it was somewhat risky, especially if you went out beyond the rocks and risked being shoved back against them – we didn’t put ourselves in danger, of course, and all the wetsuited surfers were on the safer, sandier side too away from the rock formations of Ecola Point. No beautiful birds though, just seagulls.

  2. That sounds great Amber! I love those Oregon beaches… it’s been a long time since I’ve been there though! You’re exactly right about the air-conditioned beach in Dubai – another terrible idea if you ask me.

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