Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Creative Company Conference

Haarlem, June 7, 2011.

Dying to connect…. Hipe or hope?

Set in the quietly located Haarlem's Philarmonie, the symposium's aim, according to its founder Rudolf van Wezel, is to connect creativity with business, with connectivity as this year's main theme. Creative Value Networks, Creative Entrepreneurship, and CCC Lunchtime Experience – as a relative outsider to the world of marketing and management, I found myself more and more puzzled by the managerial jargon and mindset of the day. Notions and words, which I have worked with for years, have apparently made it into the latest management theories (read: manuals, hypes, trends, buzz). Here's a selection of magical equations which claim to bring about change and innovation.

From Martijn Hamman's "Dominate Your Market" presentation (Van den Enden & Deitmer)

KISS: Keep It Stupidly Simple
Think BIC: Believe Innovate Collaborate
The 3 S: Sizeable Scalability Sustainability
CFIMITYM: Cash FLow Is More Important Than Your Mother

& and these are two striking ideas about today's world...

Entrepreneurship is the engine that drives the world.
Thinking becomes more important than knowing.

At regular intervals during the day, we are invited to connect to each other, the speakers, and even the (great) American bookstore in the entrance hall. By noon, I have to think of a recent article in NRC Next, which argued for a society without managers - its main claim being that most management is actually mismanagement, wasting resources, attention and time, and parasiting the creative discourse. A point in case in this respect is the book The Conversation Manager, by Steven van Belleghem. Van Belleghem rightfully points out that word-of-mouth and trust dynamics are the core incentives that drive our decisions regarding our careers and lives. His next claim is more problematic - according to him, conversations can and should be managed, hence providing a wealth of opinion-driven PR space to step into (and profit from). I would have liked to ask him about his last good conversation, and if we would have enjoyed finding out that it had been schemed from beginning till end. Or, as the day's comedian from Boomchicago neatly put it: crowd sourcing is kind of like if i invite you to dinner and I ask you what are you making me for dinner….

Uneasiness and resistance are interesting phenomena - they point to conflicting values and ethics. That I react as I did, comes as no surprise – "the room was filled with creatives wanting to go into business and business people wanting to be creative" (Boom Chicago).

"We need all need a Why" was a popular statement of the day, which could have connected the business and creative minds in the room, but strangely enough the conference itself was mainly instrumental in character. Notions that I work with as bearers of meaning, came by today as selling points: content, conversation, value, these notions have become quantifiable – hence manageable, which to me (forgive my longing for authenticity)endangers their actual (intrinsic) value.

It's all about reputation.

Can we imagine others models of success than the capitalist, profit driven one? Creativity is about intrinsic motivation, what is your incentive system? What are the consequences of embracing the network as a business model? How can design thinking help foster ecosystems?

According to Neil Robertson (Crowdsortium.org), crowd sourcing is a petri dish to test new forms of motivation, which do not rely only on money; examples of these new labour models are Mechanical Turk, or 99 designs. U tester, Trada, and Kloud score are other professional rating systems that reshape the labor market. The fact that we can now quantify expertise has made us move from a meritocracy to expert based markets. However, a danger, pointed out by a member of the audience, is that skills become commodities. To which Robertson cryptically replied: (…) We are commoditising the transaction costs of being an expert.

Nonetheless, being able to measure things opens up new territories – knowing about latitude and longitude helped us position ourselves, hence enabling us to move on to other, yet unknown horizons.

"Young people are today's leaders. They are the astronauts - I take care of their safe landing, and that of our customers." Ruurd Priester (Strategy Director Lost Boys)

"The issue with creative industries is you don't know what you get. That's the point of creativity. This is uncomfortable to the rest of the market, because most of the world lacks the confidence to trust this kind of processes. The norm is delivery, not research." - Victor van der Chijs (Managing Director OMA, Chairman Creative industries)

The creative sector should re-invent itself. It should concentrate on cross-overs, so that the collective intelligence of creative industries can start to be applied to urgent issues, who up till now have been left up to technocratic institutions. Now is the time, because we can organize processes now in one tenth of the time it used to take. Such is the conclusion, which van der Chijs formulated, partly fed by the architectural practice of OMA. By expanding their activities beyond architecture and bluffing their way into other fields of strategic thinking, OMA diversified its risks as an enterprise and broadened its scope of expertise. At the core of this move is the twofold identity of OMA / AMO, where OMA is the 'regular' architecture firn while AMO  focuses on everything but architecture.

Some other of OMA's business model assets include: inventive and creative, profitable but not profit driven, no compromise in quality, talent scouting, short term work contracts. A distinct feature of OMA is its chameleon identity – in order to win the CCTV pitch, OMA became semi-Chinese in its organization, so as to understand the political context, speak the language, and be sensible to the local context. This mimicking behavior is a known entrepreneurial trait - mimicking allows us to empathize and hence develop adequate sensibilities for a given task.

At least I'm not laying bricks, or why running is considered opulent in Rwanda

According to Sarah Lacy, the day's last speaker, good entrepreneurs should be brilliant, crazy and cocky, by which she means: someone who foresees things the rest of us don't see, who is delirious enough to think he / she is the one to do something about it, and who has the courage to stick to his / her gut feeling, even when everyone will say them wrong.

"We talk about emerging economies and we only look at jaw dropping demographics – the problems the emerging world is facing today are problems that the west never had to face - we can learn from their entrepreneurial approach."

What we call innovative is not really innovative. Often what makes something innovative is its execution.
Types of cultural innovation, which Lacy encountered in her scouting research are: innovative monetization (Tencent: making money from instant messaging, China), innovative delivery (sms newsletter as a means of synchronizing supply and demand and connecting fractured communities, India), innovating the Old economy (a brick layer bluffing his way into building a house in 24 hours, ending up building a contested village near a gigantic dam amidst the Amazon region), Innovative society (rolling out fiber optic cables, which literally repair the country's social tissue, Rwanda).

What can we learn from all this? Pressing issues should (re)claim their space at the center of our discourse (Banny Bannerjee of the Standford Design Program). I couldn't agree more.

1 comment:

  1. Great comment on. CCC. I really liked the comment on the speech of Sarah Lacy. A pitty I couldn't be there.