Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Creative Capital Conference, Amsterdam

I went to the Creative Capital Conference in Amsterdam, 17th March.
The conference brings together innovation experts, economists, urbanists, social innovators, cultural entrepreneurs, policy makers and politicians. During the conference, we will chart the state of the innovation debate and re-draw the public agenda for a creative public domain that supports a strong knowledge economy.

image taken by Ton Zijlstra
Great speakers included Charles Leadbeater, Jo Ichi Ito, Geoff Mulgan. The building where it was staged used to be the old Communist headquarters in Amsterdam. It has had a refit since then and is beautiful and huge. Great to meet such a variety of stimulating people. We were also involved in smaller breakout sessions which were led through a host. Many people complained about the low intelligence used in staging discussions following smaller presentations. You can see what Ton Zijlstra has to say, as well as Colby Stuart and Johnathon Marks .
There is an art to designing human interactions. Even with a time limit there are ways to include and engage an audience where the voice of the group can be heard. It does not serve your purpose well by cutting people up mid-sentence which happened time and again. Fortunately there was space in some of these sessions for the discussion to flow. Key is having a moderator that has just that right sense of balance between letting the crowd flow the discussion through their individual and group intuition and experience and redirecting or dousing the fire. This of course is a whole subject area that deserves another post somewhere later as we can consider experience designing and processes.

Back to the conference. I was privy to a breakout group with Geoff Mulgan who is the brilliant policy advisor for the Labor party in UK and is way ahead in his thinking on the future of cross-over organizational structures and the future of cities. He presented us with some startling counter-intuitive facts like:
Investing in under-3s children is the best single way to ensure that unemployment will drop and people create positive and fertile job/lifeskills for themselves when they become adults.

The group was asked to come up with 3 ideas for Amsterdam to help it innovate to be included in a policy recommendation to the government. If you ask me for ideas, then usually i jump straight in. I started thinking about the idea of Creative Commons in relation to organizations. One of the themes of the conference has been that we live in a society of "silos" where people are specialists in a knowledge domain and are often unnable to do a Walt Disney and enter other domains and roles to discover new ideas and perspectives. Exactly how to do this was one of the conferences central questions, as we have identified that innovation arises more often in cross-over spaces (television meets university = Open University). So i raised my hand and outlined an idea based on the Creative Commons - Common Organizational Spaces. This is where each organization creates a space (if they are open enough) to have passengers passing through, like work experience, except the passengers are essentially experts from other fields. This would then provide a sort of landing zone to facilitate cross-organizational learning. Geoff replied spontaneously that he was about the launch a series of initiatives based around similar ideas in the UK. Following this interchange the group discussed the need for a cross-organizational body within the Dutch government to help move this along.

We talked about how 40,000 dutch nationals have left Holland for other countries, the largest emmigration since World War 2.
Rick van de Ploeg talked about why Dutch universities are failing their students , a very non-Dutch, Dutch guy! Also we discussed the cultural memes that each person comes pre-packaged with resulting in certain consequences. This is a very big important area. Each of us whether we like it or not are subject to evolutionary randomness in where and to who and in which country we are born. Some might relate to this in religious terms too. The point is that we should teach young people about the values they are programmed with and encourage them to question them. Whether this process happens while living in your country of origin or not, it is important to get over your Dutchness, Britishness, Americaness and Frenchness. One way to do this is to leave where you live and go and work in another country. The point is that our cultural identities are too rigid and in the case of Holland, represent values and beliefs that originated in the Industrial Age and before. Continutation of core beliefs like safety and being the same as other people cannot lead to prosperity in Culture, economic wealth and Spirit in our present dynamically networked world.