Going Beyond Ideas - RSA

Going beyond Ideas

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“Going Beyond Ideas” is an ongoing series of events in Japan organised by Japan RSA Connector Tania Coke with support from the Japan Fellows' Network.

The second session, in May, focused on the process of moving from dream to reality, under the guidance of Rab and Hitomi Paterson. Around 30 people, including a number of RSA Fellows, gathered at the CTW space in central Tokyo. The event format is evolving as the series moves forward, and on this occasion a simultaneous presentation of the same material was conducted in adjacent rooms: one presentation in Japanese by Hitomi; the other in English by Rab. This report reflects the presentation by Rab.

Only a few Tokyoites have a home from which they can enjoy a view of Mt. Fuji, so Rab and Hitomi were fortunate to be able to see the great volcano (on a clear day) from their flat in the city. But with the noise generated by one energetic young child annoying the people downstairs, another child planned, and Rab frequently hitting his head on the lintel as he moved between rooms, the couple started dreaming of a home where they could spread their wings.

Fast forward 10 years, and Rab, Hitomi, their two boys, two big dogs, and Hitomi's parents live in a beautiful structure made from imported Douglas Fir logs right beside the start of a forest hiking course at the end of a peaceful valley, just a short stroll from a swimming spot in a river with crystal water that flows past the railway station, which is only a three-minute walk from the new front door—with its significantly higher lintel. Keeping the vegetation at bay in the garden is the family’s go-to goat Rosie, the roaming mower.

In a fact-packed talk, Rab explained exactly how this had all been done. It boiled down to being passionate about turning a shared dream into reality in the form of a living space that cost them tons of time, planning, backbreaking effort and bureaucratic hassles. A place where Rab could indulge his love of blues, booze and barbecues; where the kids could race each other on sledges; where the whole family could feel at home. Along the way, Rab became firm friends (and drinking buddies) with the local loggers, while Hitomi set out on the path to getting her voice heard in local government.

At the end of a fascinating account of Herculean endeavours, which left at least this member of the audience feeling decidedly weak and weedy, Rab offered a conclusion that set the tone for the rest of the evening: “Surroundings feed creativity for the future”. In other words, a well-designed living space is a big step in the direction of fulfilling your potential.

Drawing inspiration from the Wallet Project of Stanford University’s d.school, and harnessing his experience as an Apple Distinguished Educator as well as Google Innovator, Trainer, GEG Leader and Educator, Rab led us through an engaging interactive challenge. After forming pairs, our first task was to listen to each other’s description of our current home, including details of what we would like to change about it. The next job was to sketch a new living space for our partner—a dream home based on what we had heard. After receiving feedback on the image from our partner (gratifyingly positive in many cases, it seems), we compared this “home” with a home drawn by someone who had been working in the adjacent room.

What this process revealed first and foremost was an assortment of different artistic approaches. Some people drew floorplans; others, artistic exteriors; yet others, elevated cross-sections. The process of drawing something for someone else also revealed the satisfaction of identifying something that the other person felt was missing from their current home. More intriguing still was the discovery that some of these elements also appealed strongly to the person who had done the drawing.


The ultimate takeaway was that we all have the power to design a better future for ourselves, with Rab and Hitomi offering living proof that we can go beyond the idea to the reality of making even a dream home come true.

The next Going Beyond Ideas session will be held on July 11th, with further sessions scheduled every other month in 2017.

For further details on upcoming events please visit the RSA Japan website or Facebook page

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  • Fantastic write up Adam!  Thank you for bottling this night so well - booze, blues, barbecues and all ;)

    Looking forward to our next event on the 11th - we really do have the power to design our own futures don't we?!

    See you soon and thank you again, DMK x

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