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Reaching new horizons through openness

Reaching new horizons through openness
After exposing the importance of embracing change in an agile fashion to transform threats into opportunities on Day 1, C2MTL’s speakers on Day 2 presented increased openness to diversity as one potent source of creativity.
C2MTL Daily Recap: DAY 1 | DAY 2 DAY 3
We’ve been told before that innovation comes from the combination of diverse strands of knowledge. But in today’s overly complex and competitive world of business, firms can no longer rely solely on their own resources to disrupt the market. Simon Berry, founder of ColaLife, gave the perfect example of forming unlikely alliances to link the disconnected dots towards new value propositions. By acting as liaison agents, Berry and his team leveraged Coca-Cola distribution chain to deliver essential medicines in the developing world. The elements were already in place; the difficulty was in engaging organizations so they would accept to partner up, said the social entrepreneur. When one thinks about it, ColaLife’s business model is simple: amplifying others’ strengths in a collaborative spirit. But that’s always easier said than done.
"Our strategy to impact:
we need to innovate and share,
to design and give away,
and to give robust evidence
so that people can trust our strategy.”
- Simon Berry, ColaLife
Companies today can hardly pretend to hold the truth about their ecosystem. Insights can and should come from all stakeholders. Absolut Vodka had to learn it through a failed campaign revealed Jonas Tåhlin, vice president of global marketing. Although the ad campaign combined all the cool ingredients of success, it lacked meaning for the target segment. Tapping into the knowledge of consumers by understanding how they actually experience and live with your product is more valuable (and lucrative) than chasing elusive trends.
The easiest way may be to simply ask. Google’s Abigail Posner also invited attendees to take the little “why”s found in everyday life very seriously”. As human beings, she says, “We don’t just do things randomly. There’s always a meaning”, or some sort of system that’s often invisible to ourselves. Looking at oneself from the outside perspective can generate rich insight. There is also plenty of Information out there, and it is more accessible than ever. But one must have the right tools to smartly dig through the exponentially growing quantities of social data, as Claude Théorêt’s Nexalogy did with C2MTL-related tweets and posts.
Nexalogy à C2MTL
How can organizations effectively navigate through this data overload without going off track? Estelle Métayer, president of Competia and adjunct professor at McGill University, raises the growing need for companies to seek information outside their immediate borders to open their horizons. Networking is good, and weak ties have a greater potential in this process. Companies, she suggests, could appoint a Chief Canary Officer, with a mission to detect the weak signals in the external environment and bring new ideas to the table. For how to find disconnected notions that can then be creatively recombined, if not outside of one’s own realm?
"Ask dumb questions;
they often lead to good ideas".
- Welby Altidor, Cirque du Soleil
In the words of AT&T’s Esther Lee, creativity is an emotional pursuit. We understand the interior part of that posture, but often fail to grasp its external consequences. Camaraderie, she says, is essential to driving creativity (and, coincidentally, to regrouping successfully from failure). In the hyperrational world of work and business, opening up emotionally is almost like stepping out on a tightrope. It takes what Cirque du Soleil creative director Welby Altidor calls creative courage. You have to learn to fail well, fail “upwards”, appreciate, even celebrate  failure. That would be the summum of openness.
This post was written collectively in Google Docs, with notes from the C2MTL Openbrain 2014, powered by f. & co. Sarah Mackenzie and Roxanne Hamel contributed significantly.
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