A creative fix to the innovation disconnect

In just a little over two weeks from now Melbourne is set to play host to a creative collective, single minded in its pursuit of building the creative enterprise of the future.

In just a little over two weeks from now Melbourne is set to play host to a creative collective, single minded in its pursuit of using the power of ideas to make tangible, positive changes in our lives. This collective of 40 global thinkers and innovators is set to take the stage at the third Creative Innovation Asia Pacific 2012 Global event (Ci2012), which this year explores the theme of using innovation to tackle global problems.

While one can arguably question the merits of turning academics into entertainers and the effectiveness of a three day talk-fest driving real change, such cynicism fails to factor in the indelible inspirational impact of these events. It is this inspiration, this democratisation of ideas, that excites the founder and executive producer of Creative Innovation Tania de Jong, who says that fostering creativity is often the missing link for many organisations.

While most chief executives are quick to espouse the benefits of creativity and collaboration in devising productive solutions, very few organisations actually put them into practice. Bridging this disconnect was a key motivator for De Jong, who has adopted a novel approach to hammer home the message.

Creative Innovation is unlike other business conferences, in that the short keynotes from global experts are integrated with visual arts – songs, graphic arts and video projections.

De Jong, a world class soprano, says that she was keen to develop a unique forum that broke down siloes and introduced business leaders to a culture of creative thinking.

“I wanted to create a conference environment that was different to anything that had been done before, where people weren’t looking forward to the break but were actually sitting on the edge of their seats,” De Jong says.

Taking her cues from TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) talks, De Jong has melded the model of impactful short keynotes with visual arts and targeted it towards a business audience across a number of sectors.

“We wanted to put together people who usually wouldn’t meet in the same room. Normally you go to a business conference you are going to end up meeting the same people in your sector, we wanted people from different sectors to come together,” De Jong says.

This meeting of the minds, according to De Jong, is a potent catalyst for innovation and transformation.

“Innovation occurs where there is a difference of viewpoints, if you have the same people talking all the time you don’t get innovative, you need people coming from different places.”

The pace of technological change and the pervasiveness of it in our lives has further necessitated the need for these conversations to take place. This dialogue could hold the key to building a culture of innovation that fosters a new breed of creative leaders and creative workplaces.

Putting a conference of this size and one that holds such lofty ambitions is understandably a daunting task and the road from inception in 2010 to 2012 has been an interesting one for De Jong.

“It was a huge gamble and it’s still a gamble putting together an event with so many international speakers in a major venue but I have always been in the habit of starting projects without overcomplicating or overthinking them,” De Jong says.

“I had a picture in my head of what was possible and everything just came together. Usually when people start something new they obsess over a strategic plan, well I didn’t have a strategic plan.”

“I booked the venue, got ANZ as our partner relatively early and started booking key speakers. I asked Edward De Bono never thinking that I would get him and he actually said yes just a week before the final program was printed,” De Jong adds.

Her strategy may seem precocious and she did have a fair slice of good fortune but De Jong says that it was the strength of her idea that gave her the confidence to forge ahead. 

“I always tell young entrepreneurs to start and not overthink things, if the idea is good the momentum of energy and passion can be very compelling.”

With the established, monolithic idea of a workplace fast becoming an anathema to success, those leading the new workplaces will need to be well versed in the language of innovation and creativity. Conferences like Creative Innovation provide a worthwhile environment for business leaders to take that first step outside their comfort zones, and hopefully make that connection between creativity, innovation and solving problems.

Tania de Jong AM is a leading soprano and speaker and businesswoman. She is executive producer of the Creative Innovation 2012 global conference in Melbourne 28-30 November.