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This past week I was fortunate to join other Kiwi entrepreneurs and business peeps on a state-level delegation to Beijing and Shenzhen, China.

We visited innovation and tech hubs, medical and nuclear plants, attended a BioTech summit and had one too many 12-course meals.

Our first stop was a dinner in Beijing with Madame Qiu, Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs (centre). Miss Qiu was a very cool, accommodating lady who took an interest in all of our respective businesses and projects. Note – regarding formalities below – I thought it was a huggy pic. Wasn’t.

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But I’d already seen Beijing once before, and even though there was the novelty of blue sky, it was Southern China’s tech-powerhouse I really wanted to discover.

30 years ago Shenzhen, a 40-minute drive from Hong Kong, had a population of 30,000. Today it’s home to Tencent and Huawei, among other tech giants, and has a population of 19.2 million, all of whom reside in a very liveable city with a lush climate. There are also some pretty big incentives set by the local government to encourage foreign start-ups to set up shop.

If I was 20 and starting out in innovation and tech I’d be there.

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Just when you think an idea is too stupid for words or is best left at the bottom of the wine bottle at 4 am, you discover China’s already selling it. Below is the equivalent of Fitbit for chickens. It’s simple – tag the chicken and the device records the steps, meaning you charge more for a dead, but formally fit, chicken.

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Those 12-course meals I talked about earlier included the usual Chinese fare, with the added bonus of duck feet, sea cucumber, and a water creature found only in China, the duck-billed golden-line fish.

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Some dishes, however, awaken your typically dormant vegetarian tendencies.

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China leaves a mark, it fires you up. It rips you out of your comfort zone. It confronts and challenges you. It inspires and invigorates. It’s also exhausting. So after a week of travelling madness, I stumbled home after an overnight flight happy to hear a little voice say, ‘Dad, I got new pyjama pants with rockets on them!’

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Thanks a ton to NZCYF for a top trip. Xiexie!

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In almost every Neil Gaiman interview I’ve seen or heard he is inevitably asked the question all creative types despise. Where do you get your ideas from? At least Gaiman has a sense of humour. In the past he has answered this by saying, ‘From the Idea-of-the-Month Club,’ or ‘From a little ideas shop in Bognor Regis.’ Nowadays he keeps it simple: ‘I make them up. Out of my head.’

Because the truth is no one knows where ideas come from. I once heard a poet say his best poems fizzed past on a runaway train and if he didn’t grab them with both hands, at that very second, they would be gone forever, never to return.

I always loved the way John Cleese and Michael Palin used to write. They knew ideas don’t arrive fully formed. It takes work to find them. The stars of Monty Python would sit in a cabin in the woods and talk absolute shite, sometimes for hours, before the bare-boned idea for a sketch popped out. They’d worked out the magic ingredient. Riff and talk and riff and talk and risk.

Sometimes you’re lucky. Sometimes, for whatever reason, ideas do just arrive. But it doesn’t mean they’re any good. How many times have we scribbled down an idea at two in the morning and woken too embarrassed to even read it aloud to the dog.

The master of surrealism Salvador Dali pushed the limits of creativity, almost forcing his brain to dance on the spot. He used to slouch in his chair and in his right hand he held a key. Beneath his hand was an upside-down plate. The second he fell into a deep sleep, his hand released the key which clanged onto the plate, at which time he awoke to a fresh pallet of ideas. Which is cheaper than drugs.

Feel free to share what works for you in comments. I’ll think about what’s worked for me and post some more ideas next time.

Over and out.

Justin