Celebrating the shed's role in innovation

There are a few things more "Kiwi" than the relationship between a Kiwi bloke and his shed.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

There are a few things more "Kiwi" than the relationship between a Kiwi bloke and his shed.

Not only can he take refuge from "Her Indoors", but he is in a happy place dominated by two of the most important things in his life: his tools and his fishing gear.

But the shed is much more important than that, it is a valuable centre of technological innovation.

You might scoff, but who needs the office or premises on a business park when you have your shed in your own backyard, a place where you can work all hours and it doesn't cost much.

I was at the seaside this week, interviewing a guy who runs his business, which remotely monitors IT systems across the globe, from a beachfront house in the surfing suburb of Papamoa.

Though strictly speaking, the operations seemed to run from the kitchen table, which he likened to the much fabled shed, adding that just as Apple and Microsoft started in garages, sheds were likewise the birthplace of many a New Zealand invention.

Among these innovations, was the creation of the modern jet boat engine by Sir William Hamilton.

And more recently, New Zealander Martin Moddie told the world of how his multimillion-dollar online publishing empire started in a shed way back in 2002!

There will be others, too.

In recognition of this, the established Christchurch-based Jade Software has re-branded its office space "the shed" as it tries to rediscover its innovative roots.

Of course, there has been debate over whether the Kiwi bloke and his shed present the right way to go about creating technological success. The former Labour government was keen on a more structured and strategic approach.

While I think that structured approaches and "proper" facilities have their place, there is nothing like the humble garden shed or kitchen table overlooking the sea to get those creative juices flowing for that "Eureka!" moment; a place that appeals to a man's baser instincts, a comforting refuge of peace, harmony and quiet, somewhere sheltered from the troubles of the world.

After all, doesn't such creative invention stem from the individual rather than government or committee?

Indeed, judging by the international successes created in sheds and garages to date, we should all recognise their valuable role in human and technological development.

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