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102 – Hidden Figures the prequel

Are you looking for a key that will unlock new skills or information? Listen to hear how persistence led Shawn to a groundbreaking discovery.

Man looking for library book

In this episode of Anecdotally Speaking, Shawn shares a story from when he was working in computer programming in the late 1980s. It follows how he made a groundbreaking discovery for his team, but only once he had found the right phrase to gain access to what he needed. 

Shawn mentions our upcoming School Story Lab. If you’re interested in attending or know someone who might be, click here for more information. Our second cohort begins in May! 

For your storybank

Tags: discovery, insight, problem solving, research

This story starts at 01:04

Shawn’s first roles were in computer programming. In the late 1980s, when Shawn was based in Canberra, he was contracted by the Department of Primary Industries to help build a system that would track scientific data sets.

The Department had several spatial data sets to describe. But the system they were using didn’t have a strong spatial element. The Department needed to be able to say things like, “This data set is within this boundary,” and “Does the boundary of this data set overlap the boundary of another?” But they didn’t have the algorithms they required.

Shawn had a degree in geographic information systems, so the Department asked him to find the algorithms they needed for the computer to speak a spatial language.

To do so, Shawn went to a library at the Australian National University. He searched for geographic information systems and spatial information systems and algorithms. Shawn searched for every term he could think of that might reveal the algorithms. He poured through one academic journal, then another, for an entire week. But he couldn’t find a thing.

Then, one day, he saw the phrase ‘computation geometry’. His eyes lit up. This term was the key. He typed it into the library’s search system and found a full suite of algorithms—everything he needed. It was a groundbreaking discovery for the team.

About  Anecdote International

Anecdote International is a global training and consulting company, specialising in utilising storytelling to bring humanity back to the workforce. Anecdote is now unique in having a global network of over 60 partners in 28 countries, with their learning programs translated into 11 languages, and customers who incorporate these programs into their leadership and sales enablement activities.

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