Experimental innovation across arts and technology

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”

The Eight Creative Attributes

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.


Creativity and Leadership – five books for 2016

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.