Our Creative Economy: Listen up, Houston!

This past Monday, April 11, I had the pleasure of attending a day-long discussion “Valuing the Creative Economy” at the third Leadership in the Arts Summit held at the Center for Arts Leadership at the University of Houston. Quite a stunning facility!

I learned about this summit from my friend and Only in Houston Co-chair Alfred Cervantes, who besides being the deputy director of the Houston Film Commission was also a panelist addressing the question “Creative Economy: What is it and why does it matter”?

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Because of the length of the Summit and the depth of discussion that took place and will continue in the weeks and months to come, there will be subsequent posts about our progress and how all this can tie together here in Houston. There will also be photos and presentations from the Summit posted to the Center’s website in the days ahead.

The goal of the Summit, according to Sixto Wagan, Director, Center for Arts Leadership, is “to bring our creative community together to talk and to envision a collective future. The panels are meant to push beyond the simple binaries, help us question assumptions, and move the conversation forward toward action.”

Christine Harris lead the opening plenary (formal seminar-speak) “Creative Economy: What is it and why does it matter”? Christine has been working with creative enterprises and community development for over 30 years and was recently in Houston last November headlining a similarly-themed morning workshop at the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) and an evening panel discussion at Gensler.

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Harris co-founded the Creative Economy Coalition, a working committee of the National Creativity Network, and designed and executed the nation’s first review of defining the creative economy. This study profiled and inventoried how 27 communities around the nation were profiling and measuring their creative economies. She was CEO of Creative Alliance Milwaukee, where she managed a full profile of the regional creative economy and developed online resources for the sector.

It’s not my intent to cover all that was discussed during the Summit in one blog post. We’d be reading for days! I merely want to further the conversation that was “started” last November and continued this past Monday.

And Houston, we’ve got work to do.

Just consider these questions:

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And then, there’s the $64,000 question:

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Obviously, these questions don’t have simple, ready-made answers. They do, however, demand discussion and we need to continue this.

Feel free to comment and send me input on possible answers or solutions to these questions. You can also post your ideas on OiH-FaceBook and/or the Arts Leadership-FaceBook.

The various communication organizations in and around the city are a major resource for input and counsel. So, too, are the fine educational and non-profit venues in our area. Although this Summit centered around the arts, creativity knows no boundaries.

Through the American Advertising Federation Houston (AAFH), Only in Houston (OiH) was born a decade ago. Its intent was, and still is, to keep local creative dollars spent locally. There was even a multi-communication organization formed years ago (Houston Communication Alliance) aimed at bringing together all “creatives.”

Times change as do people and industries. Houston’s Creative Economy and its driving forces need to meet today’s challenges with tomorrow in mind. We may need to rethink how this is done. Other communities around the country are doing so, and it will take just that: A Houston-wide effort. No one organization or person can do this.

At the risk of thinking out loud (even though I’m typing this in silence), maybe Only in Houston morphs into a “Houston Creative Coalition,” which is comprised of organizations like the Houston Arts Alliance, Greater Houston Partnership, numerous professional and arts organizations, etc.? We can learn a lot from others who have started something like this. But Houston needs to create something that works in Houston, not Boston.

And we must do a helluva lot better job of communicating with one another so that we all know what’s going on and when. No problem; piece o’ cake!

The Leadership in Arts Summit 2016 is a recent example of creativity and economics blending and working together for the common good. We need to make sure the conversation continues and progresses.

More to come . . .

Onward!

 

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Kick Starting Creativity in the Rio Grande

I recently had the honor and pleasure to present “Kick Starting Creativity Without Screwing Up the Idea” to the American Advertising Federation Rio Grande Valley. As with my other presentations in this series, I did some fine-tuning with this version.

I was last in the Valley before this same group back in 2008. The landscape and development may have changed (more of it) but the people have not – still friendly, wonderful, courteous . . . and, of course, creative!

Those of you who were in the audience can, hopefully, enjoy it again and get some useful tips. Those of you who did not experience it that day, may learn a few things. Naturally, what follows is just the visual and not, unfortunately, the experience itself.

Kick-Starting Creativity Without Screwing Up the Idea

Keynote version (no audio)

PDF version (no audio)

 

Creativity: Not Your Typical Loaf of Bread

As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “I don’t get no respect.” Creativity is like that, as are, for the most part, the artisans and thinkers who practice it everyday.

Creativity is not a commodity, like a loaf of bread or a carton of milk. Those items are commodities.

But what if that bread was a special blend of pumpkin, barley, cranberry and wheat? It would still be a loaf of bread but the process of blending different ingredients to make the loaf atypical (and still tasty) is creative. A lot more than just adding ingredients goes into making this special bread loaf. The baker has to know what he or she is doing, what may work and what may not. It’s a process, and a creative one.

Do they teach that in culinary school?

Thanks to iStockPhoto

Thanks to iStockPhoto

The art of creativity is a disruption to the normal way of thinking. As a society, we need to be more disruptive, more open to solving problems while exploring opportunities. In being creative, one doesn’t accept the status quo; one wants to change and improve upon it.

This frightens some folks. They don’t like change, and don’t have a great deal of respect for those who do. They don’t understand the creative mind or the process. They merely view it as a commodity.

How do we change that? Maybe we don’t. We can educate and explain, and that will help, but we need to do that with the right audience – folks who are at least open to dialogue, are curious. They may even ask “Well, instead of pumpkin and cranberry, what about pineapple and mango blending with the barley and wheat?”

Hmmmm, a showing of respect for the process?

Who knows, if they’re really daring, they may consider introducing a new line of baked breads. Heaven forbid that the consumers get another choice!

This creative thinking is a disruption to the status quo. This won’t set well with those who don’t want the status quo changed.

Respect for those of us who do? Forget it!

Yet, creative ideas for the most part have flourished over the years. Along with this, various media have caused a different type of playing field to be formed with creativity serving up some new and different rules.

Creative options equal what-ifs. Commodities don’t care about what-ifs.

Creativity lends itself to storytelling. Commodities don’t (I suppose they can but it would be rather challenging). Creativity allows for storytelling to be transformed into Web, mobile, social, broadcast, print, wherever.  There’s a disruption in the creative process, and the art of storytelling is leading the way.

You can’t do that with a commodity. Long live creativity. Long live disruption.

 

 

Wake Up Stupid and Stay That Way

Some of us may sense that we have no problem doing this; it comes naturally.

But there is a more serious aspect to this cute little title. It goes to one’s frame of mind.

Be open to anything today, any day. Don’t have preconceived notions about what’s going to happen.

I know – that’s easier said than done.

Listen more than you talk. For some of us, this really is a problem.

Observe and absorb.

Ask questions. Get clarity.

Ask more questions. Refine. Reflect. Reshape.

Now, see what you can discover.

Creativity Tip #4

How do you know when you’ve hit THE idea? There are different approaches but this one is sort of like thinking in reverse. I call it the Drill Down Technique.

Begin with writing a one or two word idea on a small “sticky note.” These ideas address or answer a specific question that attempts to solve a problem.

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This works better in a group of about four or five, and is a timed exercise of about ten minutes.

So have a timer (electronic or a person) monitor closely.

Once you have, say, 25 or more ideas (“stickies”), choose what you consider to be the best five ideas . . . and ELIMINATE THEM.

At this point, most likely whoever is keeping time will come by and collect the now-discarded ideas. They no longer exist for (for now).

Choose five more from your “sticky notes” and ELIMINATE THEM.

Continue this process in increments of five until you have five best ideas left. Then eliminate three, then one.

Maybe this last idea you have is the best one; maybe not. However, it’s one to which you may not have paid much attention if you had gone through these ideas in a more traditional way.

Now, go do your due diligence and find out.

You never know.