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Setting Sail: ‘The Future Is Today’

January 18, 2018

Lessons from the Parking Australia Outlook Conference 2017

Astrid Ambroziak

Last fall, I was fortunate to attend one of the best conferences I have ever had the privilege to experience: the Parking Australia Outlook Conference 2017. And I want to share some of that as we head into the new year.


Albert Einstein said, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” And wonder and awe were flowing through this gathering of parking professionals Sept. 18-19 at The Star Hotel and Casino in Sydney.


The theme of this second Parking Australia Outlook Conference was “The future is today.” In its introductory brochure, Cristina Lynn, then-President of Parking Australia, wrote, “As the parking landscape is changing rapidly, the program for this conference has been designed to provide delegates with ideas and tools to face the shifting parking ecosystem over the next five years.”


And, yes, this “parking ecosystem” is transforming rapidly, yet there are hope and endless possibilities for creativity. Because the most valid questions that we as participants at this fascinating outlook conference were asked were: “Do you come from optimism or pessimism? Do you see opportunities and how do you partake of them?”


From the conference’s first words of welcome from Lynn and affable emceeing from Darrin Eisenberg, the optimism was the common denominator for all of us. The first keynote of the conference, from “Big Data Scientist” Tané Hunter, Co-Founder/CEO of Future Crunch — whose stated mission is “to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and to empower people to contribute to it” — was alone worth my fight to Australia and attending this mind-opening gathering.


With his action-igniting address, Hunter invited each of us to have an objective look at the world around us. He quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”


Optimism is good. The more people believe in a better world, the more people will take action.


One couldn’t help but ponder if we are coming from our natural evolutionary negativity bias. After all, everyplace we look, all we hear is bad news, and that includes how the world around us is getting worse.


When Hunter spoke, I couldn’t help but think that our Parking Today Media Founder John Van Horn should had been there to hear this talk: JVH, throughout the years, has been inviting all of us to look at the world with rose-colored glasses and see the good. Within our own team, he emphasizes our achievements, and to me that is a motivating factor to work harder and, most of all, smarter.


Global warming? People dying? Wars are ubiquitous? Is it true, or is it “if it bleeds, it leads” — and that is what “news” today is all about?


These days, we don’t hear how much progress we have made. We don’t hear that we have the lowest percentage of people living in poverty. We don’t hear that 40% of the world is considered “middle class.” We don’t hear that there is 16% drop in cardiovascular disease, for example, or that we have vaccine for cholera, which in the past was called the great death. These days, we don’t hear that there is electricity, water and, yes, internet available in even the most remote areas of the earth.


By 2030, Hunter said, we expect to predict seeing the last deadly infections, but we don’t hear any good news about that, or so much else, because we are evolutionarily predisposed to focus on the horrible.


Our brains are like Velcro for the bad, but as Teflon for the good.


Hunter invited us to hold two ideas in mind: The world is getting better, and the world is not yet good enough. By focusing on successes in the past, we can be motivated to create more and to strive to grasp tools that can assist us in our creativity and progress.


Optimism is good. The more people believe in a better world, the more people will take action.


And a call to action was the key that connected every other Outlook 2017 speaker as well. Some other notable speakers included Susan Harris, CEO of ITS Australia, who reiterated that transport technology is the key to creating “smarter cities,” and thus making lives better.


Another speaker, Richard Simpson from ParkPlus, “the leading provider of automated and mechanical parking systems in North America, just as Hunter had, invited us to be engaged. In his case, meaning engaged in social media and promoting our mission, our brands, and thus developing connections and unity for progress.


Keynoter Phil Kearns, a former Australian rugby player and its “most capped hooker,” brought more optimism to the conference, inviting us to get out of our comfort zone. To stop being complacent, and to infuse our outlook with the youthful enthusiasm and hunger of those who bring new ideas to the table.


Albeit, the future is changing and presenting challenges, it is also is offering new opportunities, which were visible during the amazing talks and on the floor of the exhibit hall. Some companies presenting their products and their platform included Care Park, the “platinum sponsor” of the conference, and Cale, Wilson Parking, Skidata, Nagels, and Designa.


The exhibit hall was bursting with positive energy, infused by the calls to action by the presentations. Partnerships were formed and an inexplicable harmony showing us that, today, as a parking industry and foremost as human beings, together we can create a better world.


Lorraine Duffy, CEO of Parking Australia, and her team gave us an unforgettable experience at its Outlook Conference 2017, showing us that, indeed, the future is today.


In the words of FDR, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Instead of living out of fear, we must embrace the change, see how technology is creating a better tomorrow for us all, and connect as parking professionals but as people first.


Self-driving cars, big data, smart cities — we are ready. Thanks to Parking Australia, we participants have a new outlook and some invaluable tools we can use every day. We can and we will change the world for the better, starting today, one day at the time. Thank you, Parking Australia.


Astrid Ambroziak, Editor of Parking Today Media’s Parknews.biz, can be reached at astrid@parkingtoday.com.



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