20 March 2005

Report on the Creative Capital Conference - Amsterdam

I've just spent a few days with 300 people from 20 different countries discussing and debating "what society needs to enable people to be creative".

We heard from a range of well-informed speakers with relevant insights into new ways of organizing ourselves (Leadbeater); cities as artworks (Landry); remediating urban environments (Graham); the culture of creativity (Himanen); and remixing creativty and issues for the creative commons (Ito).

We attended break-out sessions with the same people to pursue a deeper conversation about these topics in the context of specific issues like Open Innovation, The Role of Artists and Creative Producers, Creative Cities, Climate for Creative Industries, Interaction between Creatives & Industry, Open Source as Innovation Model, Publicly Financed Content, Policy Challenges, and a New Agenda for Creative Cities.

My perspective of the conference has more to do with living here in the Netherlands than with the wealth of foreign talent and ideas that were present in the conference. We had a wonderful opportunity to take these ideas and explore how we could actually generate content to script an agenda for building creative capital. What happened was more prescriptive. It seemed like certain moderators had their own agenda already written and we were just assembled there to validate that. Other moderators were not aligned with their sessions speakers and didn't give the space to come to a common agreement on what we could contribute from our sessions.

What I truly appreciated about this conference was the networking between people sparked by the inspiration that somehow we might be able to come together and collaborate on a greater scale to bring this alive - here in Amsterdam or in the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, we have a special set of environmental factors that work against building creative capital here. First, the country's core value is security, which means Nederlanders and business here are risk aversive. Second, failure is severely punished, which means we have little or no entrepereneurial activities. Third, the national motto is "doe maar gewoon" - loosely translated that means "hold back, stifle yourself and don't try to be more than the next guy". Forth, it is a country that believes in transactions rather than relationships. Fifth, it is a country that puts everything in pigeonholes ("hokjes").

What does this mean for creativity here? We have to discover that. That is our new agenda. Innovation requires creativity, collaboration and an understanding of culture as context. Perhaps, with this as a starting point, we can begin the discussion that just might lead us through the crisis.

Let's pull off the security blanket and have a look at what's possible.

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