Bilbao – Bizkaia Creaktiva, Creativity Zentrum – and UKTI – such joy!

What a privilege – going to Bilbao to work! Being part of their creative industries community (Creativity Zentrum, remarkable, passionate, committed), if only for a few days – there’s something particularly appealing about having intense discussions about creativity and innovation in that city, with the shiny bright awesomness of the Guggenheim rising majestically on the bank of the river and glistening in the sun in immediate counterpoint to the enchanting architecture of the Old Town nearby – I heard a UK participant say to someone at the conference ‘Yes, but what has the museum got to do with Bilbao?’……. so many answers, drowned in disbelief at the question! Anyway, I loved it – loved the city, the atmosphere, the ‘walkability’, the ‘Basque-ness’, the food ……… a lovely few days! And interesting – about 100 participants and various speakers from around Europe – it was great to see Pascal (Cools) who runs DC Flanders, who was on good form, cheerful and intellectually generous as ever; he and Liina (Kangas) from Creative Tampere, both CIDA partners in two current Leonardo programmes on innovation, were co- presenting with Anne Bonnar about creative districts; instead I went to hear a session on social media neworks, largely because they had Gentry Underwood from IDEO speaking – one of these young American wunderkind who manages to combine huge brains with gorgeous body and great charm – so a pleasure in every sense! My own presentation came at the end of the first day – sponsored by UKTI which was great! They showed an amazing 90 second film about UK CIs that, entirely unexpectedly, was so cool, I had a real lump in my throat, feeling proud to be British! – I recovered, though (!), and went on to talk a bit about the work that CIDA does and how we have quite organically moved into the innovation agenda over the last few years. There is so much going on now that pulls on our expertise in both the creative industries and innovation that it’s hard to draw breath. In the early days, my constant battle with governments was that the creative industries, however hybrid a sector, is neverthless a continuum – practitioners move in and out of the different subsectors – if you don’t invest in the ‘traditional’ artforms, you won’t get the best of digital – it’s the mind that matters, not a particular skill, which can always be taught! But just as a musician needs to know how use the internet for distribution, so a games developer needs storytellers to make his game ‘sticky’ – it’s real myopia that leads governments to try to separate out the ‘income generating’ bits from the rest! These days, however, the battle seems to be on the innovation front – 148bn euros spent by the EU on technology led innovation; 3bn spent on ‘non technology-led’ work – this is ridiculous! Technology is usually just the tool! The recent Amsterdam Declaration acknowledges this – and formally recognises the role of the creative industries in innovation, especially in the Services sector – fantastic!- the world turns…….
Back to the conference (Bizkaia Creaktiva): just want to note two things – first, the keynote by Gordon Torr – a name new to me but a lion in the world of advertising – talking about working with creative people (he’s written a book, ‘Managing Creative People’) – interesting how different is the world that he creates (and I vaguely remember from my Y&R days!) in advertising from the worlds I know in other parts of the creative sector, but the shared characteristics remain – the passion, the maverick tendencies, the independent thinkers, the rule breakers. Gordon made regular reference to Gladwell’s boook The Outliers – – he comented on the coincidence that there are apparently 5 Outliers in the advertising industry, globally – he himself is one – and they all come from South Africa and were all born in the 50’s………….. (hey and guess what – they are all men!! hey ho!) But he went on to stimulate a discussion about creating an environment for creative people to do their best work. When I think of all the genuine creative leaders I have known and worked with, we weren’t surrounded by wind up robots and other toys, video games or even, as recently, a helter skelter slide – we all thrived in a culture, an intellectual environment, where ideas mattered and turning them into reality mattered more; where people quite naturally felt able and encouraged to play with ideas, to see things differently, to break the rules – its about the culture that you as leader create – aargh! I must go and check that CIDA feels like that!