Creativity, big dreams, emotions and concrete action
The final day of C2MTL continued to feature the ideas of accomplished speakers located somewhere at the intersection of big dreams and concrete action. The attendees were invited to look both within themselves and their surroundings to instigate their creativity. It was fitting then that this day featured globally-renowned speakers and Montreal-based initiatives such as Tata Communications’ design challenge and the pitch contest for One Drop, a foundation started by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté.
It’s almost cliché in any business conference on creativity to hear that dreams and passion are prerequisites to any form of potent renewal. Maybe it is a backhanded form of criticism addressed to a Taylorian conception of the organization as the soulless, scientifically-scheduled kingdom of modern management and boredom. But it’s possibly also a stark reminder that there is just no escaping our humanity anymore, lest we optimize ourselves like robots into irrelevance and oblivion.
Humans form the basic building block of a company – people who share the bread. And humans are driven by dreams, and emotions. German designer Stefan Sagmeister cheekily recounted the six basic emotions, noting that only one of them, joy, was positive while the others were neutral or negative. Yet the quest for happiness – through whichever means – is the flavour of the day. Why would business projects deny this truth? It is precisely that search for accomplishment and well-being that pushed Catherine Hoke, founder and CEO of Defy Ventures, to reorient her career as a venture capitalist to help former inmates reintegrate society through entrepreneurship.
Likewise, the 15 Montréal designers invited by Tata Communications to redefine the Future of Collaboration were not primarily interested in creating revolutionary products to make management maximally efficient. They wondered how employees could feel happier. What if they were less consumed by tedious project management necessities such as endless email chains, status reports and statutory meetings? Perhaps then, they could focus on the essentials such as working together to create value for the company and its clients – and in doing so, finding inner satisfaction. Hardly anyone has ever felt satisfied by having attended yet another pointless meeting, but oh the joy of having resolved a tough business, design or relational problem!
How can such powerful emotions be tapped for the benefit of one’s professional aims? The importance of reflection cannot not be denied. Director James Cameron stated, “Dreams are the greatest free resource we have” (his movie, Avatar, was based on images from a dream that he had in his twenties). This introspection equips one to effectively join forces with others. As Cameron explains, “I have a reputation for being a perfectionist, but it’s not true. A film is [actually] collaborative, so many visions drive it. We work with the collective will to do something excellent.” In keeping with this theme, it was announced at C2MTL that Cameron will be teaming up with Cirque de Soleil to create a live show based on Avatar.
As Cameron said before, “imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Other people will do that for you. Don’t bet against yourself.” The impossible is within reach if only we believe, and surround ourselves with the same spirited beings.
"I think it’s misunderstood that you have to fail.
You have to be ready to fail, and to go through the consequences.
But, it’s better if you acquire a healthy paranoia about it
and if you don’t fail." - James Cameron, director and adventurer
Of course, if dreams are the engine of creativity, we cannot engage on the journey of making them real with a view to fail. That would be a deception to ourselves and to others whom our dreams have inspired. Cameron clearly refuses the glorification of failure that has become a bit of a trend in many startup and business circles. For him, failure "is about seeing how badly you will feel when you fail and then staying up all night and day to avoid it."
Come to think of it, the most negative of all basic emotions, fear – so deeply-rooted and primal that it is itself often feared – becomes a very powerful lever for creativity. It allows us to envision a world that we do not want, not so much because we can quantifiy and rationalize how bad it is, but because we fear it, and then envision another one, where our fears would be alleviated and replaced, notably, with joy. No wonder, that our dreams oscillate so easily between terror and euphoria. Somewhere in that movement lies the most powerful engine of human creativity.
This post was written collectively in Google Docs, with notes from the C2MTL Openbrain 2014, powered by f. & co.