"Innovation occurs when different people and different ideas collide."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Catherine Carter, founder and director of Salon Canberra.

What are you working on?

I’m the founder and director of Salon Canberra, a forum connecting thought leaders and influencers to discuss and dissect issues that influence the future of the nation’s capital and capital region. Salon Canberra is all about curating connections and quality networking opportunities, sparking new conversations and cross-sector collaborations, to create competitive advantage, explore new ideas and expand our city’s potential. Right now, I’m transitioning from hosting real-world discussions to a series of online conversations, covering topics from climate change to community cohesion, urban planning in a post Covid-19 world to new technologies, and building resilience in an online world.

Why is innovation important to you?

Up front I’d have to say that true innovation is rare. I think many of us confuse innovation with invention. Designs, ideas and technologies do sometimes seem so radical that we can mistakenly think they came from nowhere. But most inventions are incremental improvements on the ideas of others. Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the internet says the ‘eureka moment’ is a myth. He says an idea doesn’t come because “you are really clever, and you just thought it up”. Instead, it’s because you have been “talking to people, reading up, concentrating on different aspects of the problem.” So, if innovation is a process rather than a singular ‘eureka’ moment, the secret ingredient is collaboration. This is why I’m so passionate about Salon Canberra – innovation occurs when different people and different ideas collide.

What drives you to make a difference?

I love connecting people and ideas, and I’m passionate about Canberra. When I first moved here in the late 1990s I couldn’t wait to leave. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I feel proud to play a part in making our city the best it can be.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

Back yourself. Dare yourself to take a risk. Whenever I feel hesitant, I take inspiration in the words of Barack Obama: “We did not come here to fear the future. We came here to shape it.”

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