Red thread through C2
Creativity, there’s a word we (over)heard over the past few weeks. Everyone has been and is talking about it, especially as Montreal hosted the event that includes this popular word in its title : C2-MTL [creativity + commerce]. From participants to speakers, the C-word must have been mentioned at least once by everyone.
But, what is creativity?
We already talked about the theory in our other blog post here, as well as reflected on the topic. Here, we look at it from another angle, and try to answer collectively, creatively. How? Last month, we also published our manifesto, Guerilla Everything, where we stated being prepared to "demonstrate in action and intervention what we aim to achieve collectively" at C2-MTL. And so, from May 21-23, with our #redshoes on, we stepped in...firmly believing that the collective intelligence of creative groups will always surpass that of a lone genius. As promised, we opened our brains to you, to the world, in spirit of putting into practice what we preach. Everyone seemed to be following the red shoes movement...
With over 50 contributors, connected and live, we were able to co-create, to fully document the content of the second edition of C2-MTL’s conferences.
Yet, the creativity question remains. In the loosely woven fabric of C2, we can surely identify a few interesting threads, but can we follow one all the way through? In putting the pieces together, in highlighting the takeaways, it seems that the C2 speakers managed to, perhaps without truly knowing it - collaboratively yet unconsciously - weave together a story of creativity.
All that being said, through the words of the conference invitees, using only the quotes of (almost) all the speakers, and via the Open Brain,let's try to identify if there is a (red) thread going through, if there is indeed the answer to...or a creativity story going on.
Warning - this experiment requires an open mind - readers discretion is advised.
Ready? Here we go:
“Creativity is everyone’s business - make it your business to think creatively!” is how Jean-François Bouchard kicked off the 3-day journey. That was our first introduction to the creativity-business dichotomy. But beyond business, “you have to have hope. You have to have optimism. [You have to] Believe in the future and bring that forward” went on to say Fred Dust. After all, allowing yourself to dream is what opens up possibilities... dreaming is creativity.
Creativity is also business opportunities? Well, “yes, it is about commerce and creativity, but it is also about giving” believes Blake Mycoskie. It’s about giving, about creating an impact. About adding value. When you ask yourself these questions (will it add real value?), then “it’s a healthier business” attests Tom Gentile. Healthy also means constant improvement, reinvention. For that, you should always “think about innovating in terms of customer” he adds. “It’s important to think of advancement from the perspective of the passenger”, confirms Nicole Piasecki. When you do that, that’s when innovation takes flight. Fly in the sky, or above it... Regardless, creativity seems to look up. Indeed, you must “have the courage to step up into space” agrees Chris Bangle. We note again, the notion of dream, of shooting for the moon, of not being afraid to aim high...
But dreaming does not only belong to creative [or more traditional] industries. Apparently, even “our societies must have differentiation as a founding principle. Governments must think of how they can generate a frame to reinforce creativity ; that all of society be aware that creativity is their businesses (...) [it is] fundamental” reinforced Jean-Claude Marcourt and Jean-François Lisée, the politicians that hijacked the stage for a moment. When you look at it this way, “creativity is everything!” certified Philippe Starck, with his accent. “We are responsible for our creativity. It’s a duty.” he went on to say. It is also a duty to “share in a common mission to augment human power, [to] make the human species more effective” added Neri Oxman, introducing us to the “Mythologies of the Not Yet, mythologies that have not yet been invented.” Daring to think, to talk about what’s not been invented, that is also what seems to be creative.
Okay, great, will tell us "traditional" businessmen... powering a better tomorrow is sweet, making an impact, fine, but how do we make money? “Impact comes when there are returns. When people make money, things happen. How in history have we made a lot of money? It’s when we thought outside the box. When creative people make a lot of money, global impact is achieved” BAM! there goes Stephan Ouakanine for ya! So, again, creativity means not being afraid, daring to be different (or think different, thanks Steve - may his soul rest in peace!) Go, step outside the box, the money will follow. “If you’re passionate, the rest will take care of itself. Listen to your instincts” confirms Barry Diller.
It will take care of itself, yes, but it of course starts with a purpose. A purpose that you have to protect, to take care of, cherish, embed in your culture. Indeed, “culture is the living breathing heart of the business, our mission, purposes, values... the petri dish in which the grand experiment and journey of our business take place. The most important asset that any company has” were the wise words of John Mackey. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” he did add, and “through collaboration we innovate on the idea... Most corporations are obsessed over their strategy, when they should focus on what they are doing and why” and so you have to instill that in your culture, you have to believe in creativity and in its ability to help you innovate, to help your organization, your business.
“Creativity leads to innovation (...) creativity is everything” adds Bobbi Brown, who did say getting inspiration from dark chocolate (do you have dark chocolate at the office? Perhaps you should. Or any other food or drink that will inspire for that matter...). Because inspiration helps, it leads us to ask ourselves questions. And when you ask questions, you are most often trying to answer the why, which brings you back to the purpose, the raison d’être that will touch the consumer, the human, the soul and his needs. “What are the experiences we can create to help meet those needs?” is the question that we should be asking, according to Steve Brown. For Diane Von Furstenberg, who “wants to be the friend in the closet”, focusing on the consumers' needs yes, but you also “have to carve your brand’s DNA, to stand for what you believe in” You have to stick to your core, to the essence. Different while sticking to your core...Creativity, then, is striking balance?
Creativity also has an essence. According to Sanjay Poonen, “learning and teaching is the heart and soul of creativity”. Remember that as you build your culture, because we all know the saying, you can't teach if you can't learn. Teaching, learning...Art? Science? Arkadi Kuhlmann contributed to the discussion, adding that “we know the science of business. What's missing is the art of business... the creative component (...) it’s about the journey, not the performance”. If it’s about the journey, it’s important to remember that that “storytelling is key” will he add. Arts. Science. Creativity. Commerce. All of it does not seem incompatible, so long as you are able to tell a great story? And even if you are a scientist ! “Saying that scientists can't tell stories is bullshit! “ beautifully remarked Hilary Mason.
So, where are we? Did I lose you? You still here? Thus far, we seem to understand that creativity is many things. "Creativity is a big word. Sometimes its proactive, when you have the guts to be a catalyst, a spark" believes Andy Nulmann. Creativity is a spark, but “creativity is not pretty. It bleeds. It's the devil. Break things and be evil...Creativity has to be lived and tried." according to him. Andy’s bottom line: “jump off cliffs and grow wings on the way down”, that’s creativity that takes flight! Fly high, but remember to speak to your audience in their terms, affirms Tracey Bleczinski. So, dare to dream, to fly high, but as you tell your story, remember to use words that people will understand, so they can follow you on your journey, yes?
Speaking of flight, at last, according to the famous serial entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, “creating a business is being creative. [It’s] a blank sheet canvas. Creating a business is like that. Making sure every little detail on the canvas is perfect. What is a business? Very very dry. Business is making a difference in people's lives. And you have to do it in a creative way. Surround yourself with creative people. Inspire them with what you’re trying to create. Throw it in the public and see the reaction”. There...creativity for ya?
So, can you see a red thread going through?
In the end, big names came to C2 to share their view and tell us that you can’t just talk about creativity. That you have to make it real by doing things, by walking the talk, launching a business, daring to dream, reinventing the future, changing the world... And if you can tell a good story along the way, then great, that’s a bonus ! What do you think?
“The ropes of the royal fleet, from the largest to the smallest, are braided so that a red thread runs through them from end to end which cannot be extracted without undoing the whole. Even the smallest fragment may be recognized as belonging to the crown.” - Goethe