It’s been both a depressing and a fascinating couple of weeks…… Continue reading “Post-Brexit reading”
Guest post from Tom Campbell, novelist and former adviser to the Mayor of London Continue reading “London: going for silver”
The first in a regular series of posts highlighting a selection of recent articles and stories on creativity, innovation, culture and the like…. Continue reading “Creativity, Innovation, Culture – May”
The programmes being piloted by MadLab, Makerversity and NearNow are aiming to test an approach to the development and support of innovation across arts and technology. They are different takes on an ‘innovation-intensification’ process – providing space to develop and test new products and services, and guiding innovators towards a sustainable business model – including the potential for ongoing investment. Continue reading “Experimental innovation across arts and technology”
On the face of it, this is a book about a sailor whose dream of catching the biggest Marlin is sadly dashed, his failure captured by every mouthful the sharks eat of his catch, as he slowly tries to guide it back to land.
But is it really a book about failure?
It’s sad, for sure. Santiago, the fisherman and sailor, is a sad and – by the end – a distressed and fragile figure. His catch, strapped to the side of his boat, is now just a fleshless skeleton and he, surviving for days without food or water, is sick and weather-beaten. But, that skeleton – all 18 feet of it, with a “handsome, beautifully formed” tail – is itself evidence of his achievement and of the battle he fought. As the last sentence states all too clearly: he is still “dreaming about lions” and, indeed, through the boy sitting by his bedside, he has a companion through whom he can share and pass-on his experiences.
As my earlier blog stated, identifying and celebrating ‘failure’ risks privileging the notion of being wrong and being right (in the same way that ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good’). Innovation and improvement are not always about getting things right or getting things wrong – there’s a learning process here and even when one feels beaten, it’s important to acknowledge achievements and to learn. And of course, one should never give up dreaming about cats!
In a recent article, Tom Campbell from the KTN drew attention to a range of practices which are deployed by creative professionals in the creative sector, as well as in the wider economy. This is important for, as his piece noted, there are now almost as many people in creative jobs outside of the Creative Industries as there are in those sectors themselves – with 1.7 million employed in the creative industries and a total of 2.6 million in the ‘creative economy’ as a whole (the Creative Economy in this context refers to everyone who has some kind of creative employment).
Despite the scale of creative employment across a number of different sectors (from music teachers to designers in the car industry), our perception is that their significance in driving innovation across the economy is yet to be fully recognised. So what is it that the creative industries – or more accurately, creative people and businesses – can bring to the wider economy? Tom’s article made the case for what he referred to as the Eight Great Creative Practices – explicitly echoing the Government’s affirmation of the Eight Great Technologies. Covering disciplines such as performance, craftsmanship, curation and storytelling, the list attempted to establish a set of practices associated with creative professionals, but which can add value in a wide range of commercial environments.
The eight great creative practices is a useful provocation, but on the basis of reflection and a recent workshop discussion, it might be helpful to focus on more over-arching qualities, those distinctive characteristics that underpin creative practices, skillsets and methodologies. Here then, in the spirit of continuing the debate, are my suggested ‘eight great creative attributes’:
- Abstraction: the ability to create ‘distance’ between contemporary reality and imagined or alternative futures. Not just to test product ideas, but to take on inherently uncertain, or even taboo, issues
- Divergent thinking: the ability to be always open to new ideas and to encourage that openness in others.
- Ambiguity: keeping two opposing ideas in one’s head at the same time, and using that to imagine different/opposed scenarios or options
- Metaphor: the ability to imagine, envisage and deal with cognitive challenges and problems, not just physical ones.
- Mediation: working across different disciplines – facilitating translation of contrasting or alien ideas
- Interactivity: working collaboratively with a diverse range of practitioners to generate and test new ideas
- Risk-taking: understanding the need to experiment and take on risk, and to manage risk effectively within commercial constraints
- Resilience: the strength and tenacity to constantly iterate, learn from failures and to re-invent.
This is intended as an antidote to those management blogs which recommend books to read – and then come up with a list of dull management tomes. As if being a good manager or leader was all about reading other managers’ tips on how to be a good manager or leader. (To be fair, this list – which prompted this blog – is not so bad.)
Instead, how about reading some books – you know, real books – by people who challenge, interrogate and explore key concepts like ‘tenacity’ and ‘empathy’, ‘decision-making’ and ‘mental strength’, rather than talk about them in meaningless management jargon.
Here’s just a selection:
Raymond Carver’s short stories
Carver has an ability to observe and report on human tics, traits and characteristics. His short stories of mainly humdrum life in California reveal the complexities and neuroses of everyday life.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
A powerful story about a woman who escapes from an oppressive existence through extraordinary fortitude. This is a story about the dilemmas of pushing against conventions, of breaking rules, negotiating social and economic barriers – while staying loyal to one’s principles.
The Second Coming by WB Yeats
Anarchy, loss of control, a sense of foreboding. A poem about powerlessness, of fear and of hope.
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
A reminder that every action has consequences. Albert Camus acknowledges this book in his L’Etranger. Brilliantly told, with a craftsman-like control of language, Cain deals with issues of transgression, guilt and justice.
A Fortunate Man by John Berger and Jean Mohr
One of my favourite books. Reflective writing and beautiful monochrome photographs provide context and commentary about the life of a doctor working in the Yorkshire moors – the travails, traumas and compassion of a life devoted to other people.
Choreographing local creativity
A colleague recently helped set up a creative collaboration between two friends: an architect and a visual artist. It took a couple of years to plot, and a few months to choreograph. It involved getting local permissions — mainly from land and building owners, rather than the local council. And there was plenty of other planning and logistics to ensure that the event — a sound-and-light show between buildings and across a couple of streets in North East London — was safe and fun for whoever bothered to turn up.
2000 people turned up! There was no marketing or promotion — just a flurry of emails and facebook posts a couple of weeks before. But some of these got picked up by local networking sites and a major on-line listing magazine — and suddenly they were inundated. Continue reading “Popping-up everywhere”
Hull doesn’t seem like the obvious place for a conference on digital arts – but it’s two years away from being the UK’s Capital of Culture, there’s a new digital media centre being established on an old quay, and a healthy and growing buzz about the place. I may not have been there before, but I left confident that I’ll be going back soon. Continue reading “Digital Utopias – imagining Heaven and Hull”
Big Data is all the rage. High-velocity, high-volume information and statistics generating ‘infographics’ (which no-one seemed to notice before), data-rich annual reports and evaluations – and, of course, becoming the subject of funding calls. Continue reading “Whose data is it anyway?”