Are you following your passion? or is the passion following you?

If you ask me about passion in the creative industries, I’ll say it is the natural way of things. Creativity and passion go hand in hand. Even more, without passion, you cannot be creative. But how does it emerge in you? How do you find your passion?

After supporting creative entrepreneurs on their personal development plan for three years, I’ve seen how discovering your passion is a hard job to do in life. Some of us find it quick, thanks to the inspiring environments we grow up in. Others have doubts about what they like, since they enjoy doing so many things. In some cases, your passion follows you everywhere, and even if you do not see it, it keeps crashing into your face in the most crucial moments of your life.

That is the case of my old friend, Juana Medina, a Colombian artist who wasn’t aware of her talent until life showed it to her. I’ve know Juana since kindergarten. We attended Rochester School together until high school, and I have always thought she had an amazing talent for drawing. However, she discovered that after she went to the US and took a drawing class at Georgetown, while she was validating her studies as a physical therapist in order to work there.  Her teacher, an inspirational one, questioned and pushed her into studying design. Until then, Juana considered drawing was “something anyone could do”: something natural, something as talking or walking. She didn’t recognized it was a huge talent.

After things became difficult with her career as a physical therapist, Juana started studying Design at Corcoran Arts School at DC, and then found herself in Rhode Island School of Design in an interview. Again, another teacher told her to think about what she desired the most, what was the perfect school for her, what was her dream. That is why she is now a graduate from one of the most important Design Schools in the US, and has had the opportunity to be a teacher at RISD. Juana is also an illustrator for several publishing enterprises, and does animations as a freelancer.  Her passion was following her and found her. Talent, opportunity, openness and timing were there for her to pursue her passion.

When Juana describes how she felt at RISD the first time she went there, she quotes the feeling she had at school when we all participated in the annual show. The show was built by all the students: the ones good at visual arts did the scenery for the stage and designed the invitation and advertisement; the dancers practiced for months, as well as the theatre students; the music was played by the ones enroled at  music class. At show time, creativity was the only thing that mattered. We didn’t sleep, we didn’t attend other lectures, and we were focused on making it perfect. And it was. The whole environment for creativity was set at school. We  were all part of a creative milieu.

Another determinant factor which contributed to Juana’s talent was her family. Juana grew up in a family where art and creativity is the rule. Creativity was not anything ‘different’, ‘snob’ or ‘special’. It was just the regular thing to do. When a kid grows up in this kind of environment, creativity becomes natural; it becomes part of who you are.

As a conclusion, I must say that finding your creative passion must have the following components, which we have seen in Juana’s case:

  1. Be aware of your talents. What you think is obvious to you is not obvious to everyone.
  2. Become part of creative environments, especially those who allow you to make mistakes and let you explore your abilities. It is vital for you to nurture creativity and start to ‘connect the dots’.
  3. Stay open and listen to other people’s advice. Some teachers might inspire you to follow your dreams, and other can ruin them. In both cases, be open and listen. The first one is able to perceive things about you have never seen; the second one might reinforce your beliefs and give you the energy to continue.
  4. When things do not work, start thinking what is wrong. Creativity is also about intuition. As Juana said when talking about her career change: “either nothing was working, or everything was working” for her to become an artist.
  5. Focus. When you find your passion, focus on it and develop it as much as you can. Set a plan (even if you change it in the way) to nurture your talent with courses, online tools, creative spaces, friends and colleagues that may inspire you to keep working. You’ll soon find your passion will become part of your life, and you’ll see yourself as someone who is living a creative, consistent and rich life.
For more infor about Juana Medina check:  juanamedina.com 
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Reflection about my goals after MACE experience

When I started MACE, I wrote in the blog my main passions and interests were:

 Art + Natural Science + Social Science + Education + Creative Business Models (Reyes, 2010, first blog post)

 I thought that developing knowledge in those topics will lead me to an answer of how I want to work in the near future. After undertaking almost all the assignments for MACE and the Management Specialism, I realise the transversal topic in this equation is CREATIVITY.

 For me, creativity is the ability to establish new relations between ideas and/or things. As Howkins (2010), Bilton (2007), state, creativity is the bridge that connects ideas, to create new ideas.  Creativity is not about a blank page or canvas, is about using the available information to create something new and valuable for the social context. Here I quote Ibbotson’s book, called “The Illusion of Leadership”, when he states that:

 “Nothing comes from nothing. We are always starting from somewhere, the stuff in our heads, the existing marketplace; the history we all remember, the materials in front of us.” (Ibbotson, 2008, p. 5).

 A close friend of mine used to say “we are all clones of each other”. García Canclini (2001) says we are “hybrid cultures”, a recombination of the past, the tradition, the present and our views of the future.  We are embedded in a culture (and nowadays, in many cultures) and that culture determines who we are, what we think, and what we choose to follow or not. I also believe we are agents of our own destiny; we construct our reality. Being creative is being brave enough to design our life as we wish, using the available resources in the environment and our culture.

 What MACE gave me was clarity about my desire to work in creativity and innovation businesses. I learned creativity is connected to the context, since it is the one that determines its value. Therefore, creativity can be applied to art, to environment, to communities, to education and to business models. By doing so and implementing shifts and changes, we can become innovative in all these fields.

 Environmental issues and creativity

This has been the year of oxymoron for me. Words such as the Creative Industries, Natural Capitalism, Sustainable Development, creative economy, Ecodesign, Ecopsychology and Management of Creativity seem to be opposite and absurd to many people; they just do not understand what I am studying.

 For me, the link of creativity with business and environment is so obvious I find it really hard to explain. One of my teachers in Colombia, the Environmental Psychologist Marcel Zimmermann, wrote a book about “Eco-pedagogy”. In his book, he explains how the division of mind and body of Western Culture has influenced the way we perceive nature as a resource, not as part of the system that sustains life. According to the author, western education also has had an impact on segregating logic from creativity, reason from intuition (as it has also been stated by Bilton, 2007).

 The duality in the creative industries is explained also by Howkins (2010) in his book “the Creative Ecologies”. For him, the repetitive industry (one based on control, hierarchy, rigid, fragmentation, linearity, competition, among others) is being  confronted by the creative industries (those based in access, networks, fluidity, systems/holism, cycles, collaboration).  Zimmerman’s approach goes a bit further, stating that this duality also has impacted our brains, dividing the two hemispheres and not allowing us to see the world as a hole. For him, creativity and arts are means to connect the hemispheres, as well as our body and its senses to get a wider perception of the world. That is why I developed some workshops based on his approach to “sensory development games” that connect people with creativity and nature.

 After MACE, I believe it is time to surpass the duality. There is no point in dividing the world in two, there is not black vs. white, we are constantly moving in different colours. Creativity, therefore, is the constant fluctuation of poles; creativity is about adding (not dividing) the polarities and checking what emerge from them. That is why I learned so much from the Design Thinking approach, Prototyping and trying what one has to say.

 Design thinking and social entrepreneurship

I’ve been a social and cultural entrepreneur since 2003 (see www.idrocolectivo.com). I created my own NGO believing environmental education and art (in fact, CREATIVITY!) are the key tools to sustainability and conservation. By studying Design Thinking and how it is linked with social entrepreneurship, I understood that my NGO is a social enterprise that recognized the local need for education and aesthetic joy. However we, the 5 founders of IDROcolectivo have been struggling for years to create a business model that suits both the needs of the community and the sustainability of the business. According to  Tim Brown, Design Thinking “is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity” (Brown, 2008, p. 2) . It is human centred and has a systemic approach to business that matches my beliefs and epistemology.

 By approaching businesses through Design Thinking, we can create innovation not only in products, but, more significantly, in systems and processes. Innovation’s scope is expanding to communities. As Unite for Sight expresses “no matter where we look, we see problems that can be solved only through innovation.  Such problems are especially dire in the developing world where unaffordable and inaccessible health care leaves millions in poor health, where billions live in poverty and struggle to obtain an education. The global problems require a human-centered, innovative, and practical approach to finding solutions”. (http://www.uniteforsight.org/global-health-university/design-thinking). Design Thinking seems to help in achieving this goal by the hand of social entrepreneurship.

 Creative Business models 

One of the best books I read during the course is “The Business Model Generation”, by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) (http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com). It helped me to understand how I can be innovative in the business model. It explains in a very visual and entertaining way the patterns present in different business models so far. This gave me the skills to differentiate between business models based in the long tail, multi-sided platforms, unbundling business models, open business models and FREE as a business model (Osterwalder and Pigneur, 2010).

 When I read “The Business Model Generation” I understood International Student Toolkit was a multi-sided platform that “bring[s] together two or more distinct but interdependent groups of customers”. (Osterwalder and Pigneur, 2010, p. 78). In this case, the international students are one customer segment, the community that builds the network and is subsidized by the companies that advertise with us. The advertisers, the other costumer segment, are companies that provide services or products for international students.  The IST team decided to attract one segment of the platform with a free value proposition in order to build a community. The other side of the platform (the service provider companies’ side) is attracted by the network and the community we can reach.

 Managing Creative Teams

I am not a “creative person” in the sense of having a creative profession’s background. I am a psychologist who has learned to work with artists, designers, scientists and administrators. What MACE and the International Student Toolkit experience taught me is the importance of building balanced teams, not only in terms of disciplines, also in terms of personalities and working styles. For that it is important what I have learned about learning styles (Kolb, cited in the PPD lecture, Diploma of Management Studies, and in Jane Trueman’s lecture about “Factors that contribute to success for multi-disciplinary team projects”, 2011). It was also very useful what I learned about Belbin’s team roles and the orientation of each team member to the people, the idea or the task (Belbin, 1981, 1993, cited in Woodall, 2009, and in the Lecture about Bracket, in the Managing and Creativity Module, 2011. www.bracketcreative.co.uk).

According to this perspective, a team should find a balance between people who would go more for the task (the doers, implementers), the ones who would go for the ideas (this corner represents the “creative” person, but is not restricted to designers or artists), and the ones who would rather go for the relationship with other people (CEOs or PR Managers). Being aware of what each member of the team has to offer is also a good way to “back him/her” up when that person is absent.

 I believe International Student Toolkit was a success in terms of the team, since we had a Designer, a Programmer, a Communications professional and an administrator (me). However, I still believe we all have time management issues and lack of organisation. If we had more time, and space for developing our business I would have named Lada as the Public Relations and Manager, since she showed leadership and negotiation skills from the beginning. She made a lot of contacts in Serbia and East Europe, and she is still the only one in the team with the clear determination of continuing the business.

 Regarding creative teams, I have also learned that creativity needs constraints, deadlines, clarity in its resources and boundaries (Ibbotson, 2008, Bilton, 2007, Robinson, 2010). All I have learned will be part of my professional development in the future. I see myself as a creative manager and consultant, someone who knows how to lead a creative group into an innovative product, service or project.

 Globalization and developing countries

The whole experience of living in London reassured something I felt before, and it gave it a wider scope: I want to work in the creative economy in developing countries. I am community oriented, I dream about a job building better opportunities for communities and their environment. Initially, I had the vision of myself as working in the creative industries in Colombia. Nevertheless, London has showed me the real scope of globalisation. I met people from countries I would never expect to meet, and found myself in a real multicultural city. Even MACE was highly multicultural, out of 30 (or so) MACERs only 5 are English.

I now know I can work in all Latin American countries and, why not, in other developing countries. I believe there are lots of things to do and plenty of things to say in these countries. That is why one of my goals is to learn Portuguese in order to be able to communicate my ideas in the three main languages of America.

Social networks

About the social networks and blog we had to build during the semester, I think it is a very useful tool that led me to learn new skills I will use in the near future. However, I still need to develop more skills in how to use them. Sometimes I got confused and that made me avoid them (specially twitter and delicious, the blog is something I wish to keep on working on). I believe social networking is something that should be spontaneous. I found myself networking more with MACErs through Facebook, because it felt more “natural” to me; it was more familiar. I must confess I have never liked twitter. I opened my twitter account before coming to London, and even I know it is important and I despite the usefulness I learned from it in MACE, it still does not grab my attention. The other day a friend of mine posted this status: “Facebook: vouyerist. Twitter: exhibitionist”. I still do not know if this is true, and maybe it really describes my personality. However, it describes exactly what I do not like about twitter.  I’d rather have friends than followers.

 Conclusions

In conclusion, MACE and the Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship in practice experience helped me to re-direct my goals, and provided me with tools I will definitely use in my professional career. My goals now can be summarized as follows:

  • I want to be a consultant in the development of the creative economy in Colombia, Latin America and in other developing countries around the world. The local-global perspective this experience has given me, motivated me to learn Portuguese. I believe this will be a very useful skill in the integration of Latin American businesses and culture.
  • As a consultant, I would like to work in creative team management, entrepreneurship and education for the creative economy. I believe MACE has provided me with wide and useful tools to do so.
  • I learned that in order to be unique, each business has to develop a business model of its own. In the same line, a Design thinking approach is useful for the development of social entrepreneurship. One of my goals as I return to my country will be to apply the Design Thinking perspective to redesign IDROcolectivo’s business model.
  • I will go this summer to Colombia, and I will explore the possibilities to get advertisers for International Student Toolkit. This is a virtual business, we already have the platform and this is an opportunity I must explore. I have the support of Lada, who is still interested in running the business. I believe that determination and applying what we have learned so far will make IST work.

References

Bilton, C. (2007) Management and Creativity:from Creative Industries to Creative Management. Oxford: Blackwell.

García Canclini, N. (2001). Culturas Híbridas. Estrategias para entrar y salir de la modernidad. Argentina: Paidos.

Hawken, P., Lovins, A., Hunter Lovins, L. (1999) Natural Capitalism: creating the next industrial revolution. London: Earthscan

Howkins, J. (2001) The Creative Economy: how people make money from ideas. London: Penguin.

Howkins, J. (2009) the creative ecologies, where thinking is a proper job. Quennsland: University of Queensland Press.

Ibbotson, P. (2008) The illusion of leadership. London: Palgrave Macmillan

Osterwalder and Pigneur. (2010) The Business Model Generation. New Jersey: John Willey and Sons Inc.

 Robinson, K. (2011) Out of our minds, learning to be creative. Revised edition. Chichester: Capstone.

Roszak, T., Gomes, M.E. and Kranner A.D (eds.) Ecopsychology: restoring the earth healing the mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Trueman Jane. (2011) Factors that contribute to success for multi-disciplinary team projects. Lecture for Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship in Practice.

Unite for Sight (2011.) Design Thinking. Introduction [Online]. Available at: http://www.uniteforsight.org/global-health-university/design-thinking. Accessed 22 May 2011.

Woodall, J (Ed). (2009) Personal and Professional Development. London: Kingston Business School. Kinsgton University.

Zimmermann, M. (2001) Ecopedagogia, el planeta en emergencia. Bogotá: ECOE.

.co: an opportunity for whom?

Colombia is the official owner of the .co domain. It was assigned by INTERNIC by request from the Universidad de los Andes, the first university to connect to internet in the country by using the connectivity available from Columbia University in the 1990’s.

The .co  domain was first declared as a public good in 2001 and subject to domestic public administrative law in 2006. In 2008 the government decides the .co domain should be administrated, promoted and operated by a contractor, and this task is given to .CO Internet S.A.S in 2009,  a start up  company with headquarters in Bogotá and Miami. This company uses various domain register providers such as godaddy.com. domain.com, internet solutions, 2 local registrars, mi.com.co and dominioamigo.co, which offer different fees for resellers and internet users.

Today, .CO Internet S.A.S runs the .co business through the .CO brand. In the English version of their webpage, the company never explains the domain is property of Colombia (see http://www.opportunity.co), and has applied for times to get the trademark .CO as their own. Fortunately, the Colombian government has denied the trademark, but it still lacks of clear legislation to state whether .CO is a public good or not. Therefore the scope of the business is still ambiguous.

As the internet is running out of the .com domain, .co seems to be the most competitive domain to take its place. However, I still do not know who is getting the profits of selling the .co, if the country ever gets revenue for it, and how much. The specific regulation states that fees are governed by free trade, but is not clear how much gets the colombian government for every .co registration, renovation or transfer.  As it has happened with gold, oil and biodiversity patents, the “Competitive Advantage of Nations”, as suggested by Porter (1990) may still be  in debt with Colombian population.

Some related links:

http://www.opportunity.co/about/

http://interred.wordpress.com/2002/05/12/colombia-historia-de-la-conexion-de-uniandes-a-internet-2/

Innovation in Education: The Visual Arts Centre

When I started Creative Corner, I wrote one of my passions was education. The organisation I used in  my assignment for  Managing Creativity and Innovation module illustrates why I think creativity is vital in education.

The Visual Arts Centre at Frances Bardsley School, in Havering, London, is a purpose based gallery open to the community. It runs cool projects such as the Lightbox, a pinhole camera inside a van, which main purpose is to teach the students the basics of photography and how it emerged.

The Visual Arts Centre

There is also the Arty Place, a studio run by the Artist in Residence Denise Hickey, who works in collaboration with teachers,  students and the wider community, to teach about art in innovative ways.

The whole programme is part of Frances Bardsley’s specialism in Visual Arts. The exhibitions, projects and workshops are linked to the curriculum and to the needs of the local community. 

When I approached this organisation, I remembered one of the first talks I saw at TED. It was Ken Robinson’s talk on how schools kill creativity.

The Visual Arts programme at Frances Barsdely is promoting creativity through arts in their students, their teachers (who get to suggest ideas and implement them as projects) and the wider community. It stimulates exploration and mistakes as part of the learning process.  One of the premises of the Visual Arts Centre is “there are no wrong answers in art”.

For me, creativity is about approaching ideas through different perspectives and means. Its about finding new connections between  ideas. Is  perceiving the world as a whole,  by letting our body, mind and heart participate in the process of learning. I hope other schools are brave enough to open the doors to creativity, so that we can  learn to grow into it, not away from it.

For more info, check:

http://www.fbsarts.co.uk/Index.html

NGOs and Design Thinking

Last class we had the Apprentice Challenge, and met Jerry Leisure, UK Field Director of Compassion2one, an NGO that works helping people that has been victim of human trafficking. The exercise was really interesting because we had to approach to the challenge from a strategic point of view, thinking how to prevent human trafficking during the 2012 Olympics. The subject, that is very painful and sensible, was presented in a way to us that could move our interest and motivate us.

Each group had to think on a strategy as if we were the Directors of compassion2one. I think this rule was very useful because it made us think in the perspective of the USER. What resources do we have? how can we use the partnerships we already have? How can we make a bigger impact? this were some questions that we thought about when working in our team.
Then we started digging deeper: what are the causes of human trafficking? why governments can’t build a strategy to prevent it, similar to those for terrorism? why is there a demand for this?

After thinking and discussing for several hours, we came up with many ideas that can help to prevent the problem or stop it when it is already happening. Other teams had many interesting ideas as well. However, the group that won was the one that really “stepped in the shoes” of the Director. That moved him and helped him to see some strategies that maybe he has not though about before.

The most interesting learning, from my perspective, was realizing that a Desing Thinking perspective can help solving many social problems. I believe NGO’s can use this model in order to develop successful strategies that can change the world.

If you’d like to know more about Compassion2one and how you can help, you can go to:

http://www.compassion2one.org

PS. Today a charming french fundraiser from the Red Cross came to my door. She and her team are working in the neighbourhood to raise some money for the victims of Japan and New Zealand. I ended up signing in to donate each month… I guess I’m really part of the Empathic Civilization.

Año Viejo Catharsis

It has been two weeks since we officially finished the first term in MACE. After re-reading my posts in the blog, I saw the internationalstudenttoolkit idea began to emerge in this blog and some of the comments from MACE students. Then, after some meetings with my group, we came up with the idea and it expanded into something more sophisticated, the website.

To summarize this term, I decided to do a catharsis to finish the year with some new resolutions and lessons. That is why I chose to do some Art Therapy exercise, drawing an Año Viejo to be burned at the 24:00 hours of the 1st of December 2010.

The Año Viejo  (Old Year, in Spanish) is a Latin American tradition based on building a doll full of fireworks to be burned as soon as the New Year begins. This is now forbidden in some capital cities because of the danger it represents, specially for kids, but is a live tradition in small towns and the countryside.

Recently a Colombian creative company called Zemoga designed a facebook application to build your own digital Año Viejo. All the Año Viejos will be burned this 31 December. You could have your own Año Viejo at http://www.burnthiskeepthat.com/

I tried to build my Año Viejo with Zemoga but I couldn’t share it in this blog. That is why I decided to do it the old fashion way. Here I present my own Año Viejo Catharsis for my first MACE term:

Doing this was really healthy, since I decided to burn some not-so-nice things and transform them into Lessons for life.  I also draw the New Years’ Resolutions, which includes building an amazing and sustainable international student toolkit website, travelling around the world, finding a job in the Creative Economy and accomplishing my MACE degree with success.

For this, I will have to apply what I already have learned. I will also need to have my eyes wide opened, my feet on the ground, a boxing glove to fight in this city and a green working hand.

HAPPY NEW YEAR MACEr’s and all the staff!

Motivational theories and creativity

In our last session we had to present a three minute lecture to our classmates, about something we learned this year related to creativity.

My presentation was about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the most important theories on motivation so far.

source: http://easypass.co.za/easypass-blog-page/chapter-1-the-business-world-and-business-management

Maslow Hierarchy of needs

I have worked on Maslow theory before, and I had to study it again for my Managing People and Organisation’s module.

In this theory, human needs are organized in 5 categories (physiological needs, safety and security,  love and belongingness, self-esteem and self-actualization). After studying the theory more deeply, I understood it more, and realized why it has influenced marketing and business theories. For example, I now understand that all of the categories are supposed to be satisfied in different gradients in each person.

However, I still do not completely agree with the hierarchy, since I think it should be organized in a horizontal (nor vertical) way. As you can see, Creativity is in the top of the hierarchy. This structure leaves creativity for the elder years or for only the wealthy people that can afford to have a “spare time” for creativity.

My suggestion is that all the needs are important in the same level, and can motivate each person in different ways. As Janja said, some people  are motivated by creation itself, rather than by other factors such as belongingness or security.

One theory that I like, and that I have discovered during my work as an assessor, is Manfred Max Neff’s Human Scale Development. This Chilean author, with some others, suggested that human needs are the same for every culture and every time. What changes along time and cultures are the “satisfiers” of those needs. They state that there has been a conceptual mix-up between the needs and the satisfiers of those needs. That is why we cannot “create” needs (in a marketing sense). We can only create objects, goods or services that are part of a way of life (the satisfiers).

To summarize, the fundamental human needs according to the Human Scale Development Theory are:

source: http://wearearising.org/news/

The important thing about this theory is that creativity is in the same level as protection or subsistence needs. Significantly, starting a creative enterprise is a satisfier that can realize simultaneously the needs for creativity, identity, protection, subsistence, freedom, participation and understanding.

For more information about Human Scale Development, you can read Max-Neef, Elizalde and Hopenhayn’s wonderful book, available on-line at: http://www.max-neef.cl/download/Max-neef_Human_Scale_development.pdf