The idea behind this study tour stemmed from the fact that CEOs site creativity as the most crucial characteristic missing among today's managers. Having worked in the creative industries for over 5 years, I thought it would be fun and informative to help organize a Study Tour on the topic of Creativity in business. My primary role was to develop a curriculum for 30 awesome classmates that signed up for the course.
Realizing I was in over my head, I began to get to work. The first class featured renowned Professor Eric Von Hippel and discussed the topic of lead-user innovation. Lead-users innovate for their own needs, and usually with an utter disregard for any potential commercial gain. The first heart-lung machine, the sport of kitesurfing, the personal computer and ABS brakes are all examples of lead-user innovations. Makes you wonder whether all the money spend on traditional R&D methods is worth your while when communities of lead users are already out there, developing breakthrough product innovations.
The second class was focused on Creativity and technology in the music business and featured some amazing speakers: Will Butler of Arcade Fire, Jamie Kitman, the Manager of OKGO, Jabari Johnson and Rob Kenner. Thanks to all the speakers and to Dounia Mikou of Arcade Fire's management for making this possible. It was clear from these conversations that some bands are just special - they don't need big labels behind them because their music is exceptional, and they've developed their own creative ways to build their own brands and attract an audience. The rise of Arcade Fire is one of the best examples to this effect.
The third class featured Alan Iny of BCG. He blew me away as he showed the class the strategies he employs to help clients think more creatively - in new boxes, as it were. Alan and a fellow BCGer, Lud de Brabandere, have developed a framework to help think in new boxes. Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not simply about brainstorming or tapping into some hodgepodge of generated ideas. Creativity is a way of thinking that can be taught and leveraged in the business world to create competitive advantage for a firm.
The fourth class featured Matt Howell of Arnold Worldwide discussing creativity in digital advertising. I've long respected Matt for his intelligence, brilliance and uncanny ability to create meaningful digital content for clients, while avoiding the creation of annoying and obtrusive digital advertising. In my view, Matt is a true leader in his field and the case studies he shared with us are a testament to the effective approach adopted by him and his team. In short, it was an awesome talk!!
During this same class, we also heard from Theo Watson, one of the founding developers of openFrameworks, an open source C++ toolkit designed for creative projects. As a former ad guy, I am a longtime admirer of openFrameworks, the power it gives artists and the creative projects it facilitates. Want to shed a tear and understand the potential impact of this toolkit? Visit www.eyewriter.org . Thank you Theo!
The final class was the most interactive, and was truly a fun experience. Fellow Montrealer, Natalie Painchaud, of Innosight as well as Molly Bodell, a 2011 Sloanie, who articulated the difference between creativity and innovation. Further, they took the class through a completely interactive workshop, where we developed our own solutions for accelerating the TSA security lines. My team put on a live demo of our solution, and while the solution was voted the most creative, the class made it clear that they would never invest money in our idea....I can't say I blame them for not believing in The Game Lane: A security lane where travellers compete to see who can get through the fastest; the game comes complete with prizing and a daily advertised scoreboard.
With that, I prepare to embark on phase II of this study tour. I leave tomorrow to Japan, where I will join my classmates for some more immersion in creativity, culture and my favorite meal in the world, sushi.