Archives for posts with tag: ongoing learning

steve pozel

Steve Pozel is the director of Object, Australia’s leading centre for design. His career in the arts spans some 30 years beginning in small artist run and regional galleries before moving on to become director of Canada’s most significant contemporary arts centre The Power Plant. Following a business trip to Australia he was offered a position at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art where he worked for 2 years before being appointed as director of Object in 2000. Now in his 12th year as director at Object, Steve kindly sat down for a chat with arts interview about learning and its role in the workplace.

Interview by Vanessa Anthea Macris

Could you describe Object in its current form and where you envision it in 3 years?

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Object as an organisation. One of the key motivations for me moving forward over the last few years has been the creation and implementation of our brave, bold vision for the positioning of Object in the future. Our vision is not just a 3-4 year business plan but rather a strategy for Object to be the most relevant of its kind for 2015. This has given me the scope to work with my management team and to talk to over 150 people around Australia in finding out what elements would really make for a dynamic centre of design. Out of this process we have created the 2015 vision which we have been using as a basis to develop all exhibition, creative program, educational, digital, community and touring content. Every decision from here on in is being tailored to get us towards the 2015 vision and the kind of centre we want to become.

Learning is a characteristic of an adaptive organisation. With this in mind what does Object do to support the continued learning of its staff?

I’d say that we run Object like a design laboratory. Every single staff member at Object whether you’re an administrator right through to a producer of creative programs has an almost equal opportunity to experiment, take risks and prototype various projects in the organisation. I’d consider Object one of the most fertile and innovative learning spaces because we think that if we are going to be a place about innovative ideas and concepts that will have an impact on the future of peoples lives, then that’s the territory that we as a group have to be living and breathing. For me this is one of the most amazing jobs I’ve ever had. During my 12 years at Object I’ve been on one of the greatest single learning curves I’ve ever been on and that’s the kind of job I want.

How important is continued learning in the workplace and why?

I think it’s absolutely essential. If there is any organisation that wants to move forward in a progressive and innovative way it has to be the absolute core of what you do. I also think that it’s about holding retention of really good staff, as it’s important to keep teaching and training staff members so that they feel that they’re growing and developing their skills. Continued learning in the workplace is about making staff members feel comfortable that they’re learning things that can be adapted to a whole range of circumstances post their life within the organisation. At the same time its important to have the staff members recognise how very special it is to be gaining new skills and having them wanting to stay with the organisation.

Do you feel that the development of staff is a high priority in the arts sector?

I think that we are very privileged sector because we attract incredibly passionate, dynamic and hugely creative people. A lot of other sectors, including the business sector are looking at the arts and see a sector that with very little makes huge leaps and bounds. Fundamentally, this comes down to the people behind the organisation. Overall, I think that the arts sector does a very good job but I think that it could be doing an even more brilliant job in creating even greater benchmarks for other industries to look to. Innately, we do some very good things but I think that there needs to be a greater level of training within the arts of how to leverage off what we already do so well.

What are the priorities for public programs at Object in terms of education?

We have huge plans and priorities! In fact we just spent 3 hours this morning on that very topic and we probably spend a good 3 – 5 hours every week as a team looking at that as part of our project called Design Emergency, which has been in pilot phase for the last 12-18 months. Design Emergency in a nutshell has seen us work with various stakeholders from universities and schools to the NSW Department of Education in taking design thinking as a process and applying it in an innovative way to look at problem solving. The whole basis of the program is about raising the capacity of kids in schools to be able to deal with issues around them in a much more direct and hands on manner. We’re basically giving them the skills of a designer and telling students that you don’t need to use these skills to design an object or building but that you can use these skills to re-design something that’s not working in your school, home or community.


The Australian Design Alliance (AdA) was formed in September 2010 to bring all the professional associations within design together under one umbrella. 12 members are part of the group, ranging from Australian Graphic Design Association, the Australian Institute of Architects to Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia. All members are national bodies, and the AdA covers approximately 80,000 designers across the country from a range of disciplines.

Lisa’s role is threefold; to lobby the federal government for a national design policy, to advocate around design education across all levels and to profile the design sector through case studies and activities. She spoke to arts interview on the importance of learning and the current opportunities out in the market for professional development.

 Interview by Kim Goodwin

How important is continued learning for those in the design industry, and where can such opportunities be found?

 For all of us continued learning is really important. A lot of the work that designers do is collaborative, so they are constantly expanding their knowledge as they develop designs. As the industry moves and shifts, and technology changes continued learning is crucial to take advantage of all opportunities.

There are formal options through art, design and architecture schools around the country, tertiary and continuing education choices, professional development through associations and other learning practices throughout the field. It’s hard to generalise, but many in the design sectors, such as industrial or graphic designers are in small to medium enterprises, so often they aren’t as equipped to provide the level of development as larger organisations. SME professional development is generally available through associations such as the Design Institute of Australia. So wherever you are, there are various opportunities, but the most powerful learning is often on the job.

You’re about to facilitate an online learning program through the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA), can you tell us a little bit about that?

 NAVA Connect is NAVA’s first venture into online learning for which I’ve been asked to facilitate one of four programs. The course is called “Expanding Your Career” and is essentially for artists and designers who are looking for ways to take their career a step further.  It focuses on opportunities in local government such as public art or community cultural development, product development, manufacturing and marketing, and international opportunities. The aim is to help extend practice in ways that are beyond the individual studio to grasp available options and develop alternative income generation.

Conducting online learning is relatively new in the arts sector, what benefits can you see?

 One of the benefits is flexibility – you can access and do online programs whenever you want. You don’t have to turn up to a physical location at a particular time, but rather make it fit around your work commitments or practice. It has also a lower cost of delivery so it can be offered to participants at a much lesser rate. Online learning opens you up to a network of people that may not have been accessible before, where new ideas generation can occur, particularly if you work as an individual artist.

The online learning enables you to come to grips with technology, in ways that may not have been done in your career so far. It really throws you into a technical environment, but one that is gentle, easy to use, supported, and opens up access to a range of online resources. Finally, teaching new ways of working with people provides an ability to collaborate with others in a virtual environment, which in the current market is a great asset.

You’ve had a very successful career in a number of high profile organisations, where have you personally found your best learning opportunities?

 Aside from formal learning, my most significant experience has been on the job.  Learning by doing, learning from collaborating with others and learning from mistakes. So, looking at how they operate, view the lessons and establish my own working patterns.

One thing someone once said to me has really stuck in my mind. Very early on in my career, when I was working within a government department in Canberra, I sat down with my manager to discuss the extension of a program I was working on. It was something I felt was absolutely impossible to do, and he said to me “Nothing is impossible, you’ve just got to work out a way of doing it.” That was really valuable to me, to say to myself “You are right, it may not be the best way, or the way I want to go, but we can do this.” It made me see that I needed to shift my thinking and to tackle the problem in a different way.