Introducing IdeaConnection’s writer Paul Arnold


Paul ArnoldAn interview with Paul Arnold, IdeaConnection Writer

Although science is his passion, Paul Arnold realized very early on that he wasn’t cut out for life in the lab and decided to go into the media instead, telling the world about key scientific discoveries. After 16 successful years at the BBC he realized his dream of becoming a freelance writer and since 2009 has been writing for IdeaConnection. In this article he talks about his scientific background, working with IdeaConnection and his time at the BBC.

For most of my working life I was a radio and television producer with the BBC in London, contributing to a variety of news, magazine and science shows. I had an exciting and intellectually enriching career and travelled to many parts of the world. I’ve stood on a frozen sea at midnight in the Canadian High Arctic, co-piloted a plane across Antarctica, searched for medicinal plants in the Kenyan countryside and interviewed hundreds of celebrated people in numerous fields. It was my great fortune to meet Nobel Prize winners and other brilliant scientists doing amazing things such as research teams at CERN in Switzerland and NASA engineers.

However, toward the end of my broadcasting career I was ready for a fresh challenge in life. In 2008 I left broadcasting and my native UK and moved to Spain to embark on a long-held ambition of being a freelance writer.

Working with IdeaConnection

My introduction to IdeaConnection came via a job posting on Elance, an online freelance market place. I started out by writing a handful of open innovation success stories and this has grown into writing five per month, researching and writing the blog and interviewing innovators and successful problem solvers. It is a fascinating job that involves a lot of reading and of course writing. Periodically, I’ll have a catchup chat via Skype with Scott Wurtule, IdeaConnection’s Founder and CEO.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my role is conducting interviews with successful challenge team members and hearing how they worked together to solve a problem. I love gaining insights into scientific and creative minds and maybe some of it will rub off on me one day!

A Love of Science

Like many of IdeaConnection’s solvers I have a scientific background, although mine went no further than my first degree. I graduated from London University with a biology degree that catered for my interest in evolutionary genetics. However, I learned very early on that the life of a scientist was not suited to my temperament. Although I love reading about research and discoveries, I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat in a hurry. At university whenever I set up an experiment I really wanted the results by the end of the day so I could write the conclusion on the bus home. Not for me the patience and dedication required for research projects that can take months or years to complete.

The Power of Open Innovation

Prior to working with IdeaConnection, open innovation and crowdsourcing had barely registered on my radar. Since then, I’ve read numerous books, studies and other forms of research material and have spoken to many companies that are successfully using external knowledge sources to augment and complement their internal R&D processes. I understand how the paradigm can be applied to many aspects of our lives and in my newspaper columns in my adoptive country of Spain I’m often expressing the view that politicians should open up to collaboration to solve some of society’s ills.

Many, though not all politicians of course, are in their lofty positions not because they’ve gone out into the world and demonstrated talents and capabilities in a particular field. More, they’ve climbed up the greasy political pole with grubby backroom deals and old school ties. If there’s one thing the financial crisis has shown us is how out of their depth some of them are. To be fair, politicians cannot know all the answers which is why I wish they had the courage to collaborate. They should engage the crowd in meaningful, non-tokenistic ways to look for pure solutions free of the political constraints that can stop many a good idea in its tracks.

It’s Not All Work

When not hunkered over a keyboard a lot of my spare time is spent on the local beaches, either sunbathing, swimming in the sea or going for long walks along the shoreline. My part of the southern Spain is one of the hottest places in the country with great temperatures for most of the year. I also love to explore the countryside and mountain landscapes. I live near the Tabernas desert where many spaghetti westerns were shot such as For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and more recently the forthcoming Ridley Scott/Christian Bale movie, Moses.

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