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Old vs. New: A Fresh Take on Thinking

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Hey there, readers!

Ever thought about how our ways of thinking could be categorised as 'old' or 'new'? Curious? Let's dive in and explore these fascinating concepts, with a little help from Australia's political history.

Unpacking Old Thinking

First up - 'old' thinking. This isn't about being behind the times but more about sticking to tried-and-tested paths. It's about upholding the status quo and toeing the line of established norms and rules. We've had some big thinkers discuss this - Kuhn with his theories about sticking to prevailing paradigms (1962), Chomsky’s thoughts on conventional wisdom (1986), and March's ideas about working within existing frameworks (1991).

Let's bring in some real-world context with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard. He was a staunch proponent of 'old' thinking, especially visible in his Indigenous policies. His government weakened Indigenous land rights and overlooked past injustices like the Stolen Generations. Howard also introduced the Intervention, disrupting life in many remote Indigenous communities.

John Howard once defended these policies as "a good old-fashioned dose of proper governance." It does make you wonder - was this truly 'proper' or just a continuation of outdated, one-sided approaches?

Is this John Howard's view of 'good governance'?

Embracing New Thinking

Now, let's take a look at 'new' thinking - the challenger of the status quo, the advocate of change, the champion of innovation. This is where we find trailblazers like Schumpeter, who gave us the idea of 'creative destruction' (1942), and Rogers, who celebrated the early adopters of innovation (1962).

The criticisms of Howard's policies are a prime example of 'new' thinking. Critics are calling for a shift away from the status quo, demanding reconciliation, cultural sensitivity, and a proper acknowledgment of past traumas. It's a call for a break from past patterns, pushing for a more compassionate, equitable, and inclusive society.

When Old and New Meet

But is there a winner in this old vs. new thinking face-off? Not really. There's a unique dance between old and new - stability and change, tradition and innovation. Old thinking can provide a sense of stability, while new thinking is critical for driving change and societal evolution.

The Heart of the Story

At the end of the day, 'old' thinking with its notion of 'proper governance' can carry an echo of past injustices, like those that have affected Indigenous communities in Australia. 'New' thinking, however, lights the way towards reconciliation, recognition of Indigenous rights, and a fresh, culturally sensitive approach to policy-making.

So, here's the takeaway - let's appreciate the lessons of the past (the 'old') while being open to embracing the possibilities of the future (the 'new').

I've even used old references to demonstrate that this new thinking is nothing new and why does old thinking not do these types of old thinking they knew about in the first place even before new thinkers knew about it?

Until next time, keep your minds open and stay curious!

References: (For those interested in going deeper)

Chomsky, N. (1986). Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin, and Use. New York: Praeger.

Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago press.

March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71-87.

Richie, H. (2023) 'Colonisation by British 'luckiest thing' to happen to Australia - John Howard', BBC News Australia, Available at:

Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusion of Innovations. Free Press of Glencoe.

Schumpeter, J. A. (1942). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Harper & Brothers.

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