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.
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.
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.
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.