King of the Manning River: Creativity & Problem Solving in the Workplace

Two things in my psyche, a commitment to the important role of creativity, and a love of boats and the sea, converged this week in the form of a Manning River oyster farmer, Gary Ruprecht.

Through the week, I’ve been involved in a discussion on the Linked In Occupational and Organisational Psychologists Group, about the importance of creativity in the workplace (also see my previous post). At the same time, I’ve been re-floating my boat Aphrodite, formerly owned by Ronald Biggs, which I’ve written about before, and which decided to sink in shallow-ish water on the Manning River.

One of the hallmarks of creativity is the ability to solve problems. To solve problems consistently and well, one needs to have well-developed diverse thinking ability, because the first, second or third solution, and indeed the tried and true method, might not work. A creative person will think of many things, and continue to think of new things as the situation changes. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. Creative people, according to some of the reading I’ve been doing, also tend to have a “never say die” attitude, which drives them to find alternative routes when the more obvious might not work.

When Aphrodite went down – probably because of a float switch failure – she tilted on the portside towards the deeper water, which meant that even at low tide, her portside gunwale (the top of the hull) was under water. Consequently, a normally fairly straightforward job of simply pumping her out at low tide wasn’t possible, because water would just flow in as fast as it was being pumped out. In addition, around Easter time we have very high tides on the Manning River, and this year they seem to have been exceptionally strong, so Aphrodite was deeper under and being pulled down more than you would normally expect.

This was a job for an expert problem solver, and despite very well-meaning offers of help from neighbours with boats, tractors, fire pumps, and impressive bravado, there was only one person I was prepared to trust to rescue my boat: Gary Ruprecht.

Gary is a third generation oyster farmer, and a fourth generation Manning River local. His German forbears settled on Mitchell’s Island, acquired land and farmed, and then took to the river to farm the famous Sydney Rock oysters. Both Gary’s sons have followed the family tradition and are also oyster farmers, and they have one of the most magnificent “offices” I know of.

Gary’s main piece of equipment is a huge and powerful flat-bottomed barge with an on-board crane, and he plies the Manning River on this boat with grace, confidence, enormous skill and not a little romance (of the river steamer by-gone days kind). After four generations, he knows the Manning River like the back of his hand. But it was as much for Gary’s talent and relish for problem solving, which I have witnessed and admired before, as for his skill and knowledge, that I asked him to rescue Aphrodite.

The operation went without a hitch really. I watched from the bank as Gary, my husband and a generous passer-by who offered his help, re-floated the boat and re-positioned her closer to shore, all in the space of a couple of hours. The process required some trial and error, creative thinking and experimentation, and the successful end result had as much to do with intelligence, creative thought and tenacity as it did with muscle, brawn, and exceptional seamanship.

Aphrodite is looking a little bit worse for wear, but nothing that time, hard work, some clean water and more tenacity can’t fix. Her ballast seems to have shifted so she’s tilting a bit, everything on board got a drenching and she’s muddy and dirty, but part of the joy of owning an old wooden boat is that it’s a constant and quite exciting adventure that pays enormous dividends in satisfaction, achievement, and yes, problem solving. (And who doesn’t love mud and saltwater!?).

Thank you Gary, Stephen and Jeremy. Here’s to creativity and problem solving, and expert applied knowledge in any workplace. I feel very grateful to have witnessed such impressive professional expertise, goodwill and thinking.

I think I’ll unofficially appoint Gary Ruprecht King of the Manning River.

Lynette Jensen

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* This is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the opinion, belief or policy of the company. More posts below.

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6 Responses to “King of the Manning River: Creativity & Problem Solving in the Workplace”

  1. […] writing recently about the oyster farmers of the Manning River and their magnificent workplace, I’ve been thinking about other equally inspiring […]

  2. John says:

    Hi Lynette

    How did the story of Aphrodite conclude – did she get raised from the shallows and restored ok??

    Kind regards,


  3. admin says:

    Hi John,
    Aphrodite is safe and well and has inspired a PhD thesis. More posts about her in the future. Lynette

  4. […] individual in the workplace can be more productive, happy and effective if they apply creativity to problem solving, team dynamics and management, and their general work and work/life […]

  5. […] put into action. Creativity is necessary not only for innovation but also for critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, teamwork and almost every area of life we most highly […]

  6. […] King of the Manning River: Creativity & Problem Solving in the Workplace […]

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