Manifesto for responsible innovation.

You can not change the weather with your head in the clouds.

Almost two decades ago, I was trying to write up a business plan for Addictlab, that was based on the belief that there would be a severe need for creativity. Creativity will become the ‘oil of the 21st century’ I wrote back then. Defining creativity would take us too far here, yet we can consider creative thinkers people who are able to apply some form of chemistry, so that new things arise. In that perspective, creativity is in no means to be confused with art.
More than ever, I believe that out of the box thinkers have a huge potential in view of the desired changes for the planet, the way we live together. In that sense, creative minds also have a huge responsibility. It’s what I’ve called ‘the moral duty of creation’.
Looking back at the different projects we have been doing with Addictlab, be it on our own or for third parties, there is something that is popping up. When you ask people to take part in a session of group thinking, there is a clear wish to come up with the wildest ideas, to change paradigm shifting, all of that. But there is something else: the actual ideas are been assessed by the invited group, based on their sustainability and importance for the social environment too.

What if this comes naturally with the process of sourcing and the methodology behind concepts such as Addictlab? What if bringing people together in collaborative processes results in interaction, in surprising or out-of-the-box ideas, but also brings forward a clear wish to create ‘for the community’?

Group thinking sparks responsible solutions. Change R.O.I. from Return On investment to Responsibility Of Innovation.

Could social awareness be one of the outcomes of any creative project? Then maybe that is the most remarkable thing to be studied. Because that would mean that we play less ‘individually’ when creating in and as a group. So the methodology itself steers the result in a certain direction. We’re adding an extra ‘social’ layer to the filters we use to generate our concepts. And with this, our creative thinkers need to be responsible in what they create.
Am I making sense? Let’s make a quick diagram.

1. conventional creative process:

There will normally be a reason of creation. I will limit my example here to that of a consultant creating for a client. Yet the thoughts remain the same for all creation, art included.
A client, a company, a possible sales outlet, there is an economical reason and budget to start a creative process. This process should therefore create changes for that receiver or whoever ordered the process to start. Think of new products, a communication strategy, a brand reflection, a new building, and more. It depends on the creative discipline commissioned.
In the process, there are a number of changes to be looked into. What if we could quantify those ‘changes’, be it economical, brand-related, personal or more.

• The blue part then shows the ‘amount of changes’ that are the result for the receiver. Less money but received ‘added created value.’
• The red part shows the other party that will be involved in this process: the agency/designer/consultant/artist. He who creates, he who transmits. In consultancy, changes as a result of this process for the agency will be primarily income, but one could also add field experience and added value. (We did THIS for THAT client)
• Next to that, we can/should expect more income (or added value) for external or internal creative resources. That’s the yellow part.
• The Green part, is the social part: the PR value, the story to tell. It’s what ‘other’ people will say or do, when coming in contact with the creation. In an economical creation, this means stories can be picked up by journalists & media. Yet, probably, and most of the time in a consultancy relation, this will be limited to the peer group of both agency/ & client.

2. The holistic creative process.

Now. Let’s look at what I believe should be an ideal Addictlab project, and a model for all creative processes tout court.

• The blue part stays pretty important: a client – any client – should get the changes they are paying for, and more.
• The red part then, is about quantifying the beneficial changes and/or income (but not necessarily only money) for the organization, as facilitator & methodology to create. The transmitter. This can be remuneration for the ‘production’.
• The yellow part here, shows you the income/added value for the creative resources involved. These, in my perspective, are labmembers, registered on Addictlab. Mark: the sizes of client/addictlab/labmembers are equal. Important, as we want to do anything but abuse the creative resources. This sometimes is completely opposed to how creative minds are treated/neglected by agencies in the ordinary process..
• The green part is added value generated for the lab’s partners & sponsors. Addictlab’s labpartners should be benefiting too. Labpartners can step in & tap into certain research fields. Addictlab’s proactive way of working & global research fields demand research partners. The partners/sponsors should receive added value for any process done by the lab.
• Next to that, the purple part, we are looking at changes for society. Why? I believe we shouldn’t only create to earn money, or a company shouldn’t pay us just to get added value for its board of directors. We have a moral duty when creating. This section is quantifying the social implication of the creative process. The result for our society, the people. Changes here could be heritage, regional branding, respect for social groups & more. the list is long. Our sessions proof that this part comes natural in group thinking.
• The orange field – I’ve called it ‘Credibility of the Independent Lab’ – is the authenticity factor. It’s what the organization needs to build – proactively – to create reactively based on a briefing. It’s what changes we are creating to remain true to the lab’s independency and authenticity. If the lab is not authentic, the previous parts are simply just not possible. (This is why some political decisions to sustain the creative industries simply don’t work. Politics is all from top down. Creative process is from bottom up.) The orange part are to be considered the engine of this holistic creative process.
• If all those last elements are ok, we have come to the last part, the brown part on the chart, being the story value of the project. The size is the same as the ones in the beginning. As important, because the story we now can tell, is a story that is authentic and very credible in view of sustainable changes. A broad selection of media should be interested in bringing the results of the process, generating PR for the company, the labmembers, and the regional hub it was created in.

The way forward: All creative processes should be assessed.
I believe this model should be implemented throughout the different fields of expertise. All processes could have an assessment based on the changes they evoke and realise.

Such a model, emphasising on the social implication of the creative process, will result in a growing awareness for all aspects involved, and could re-arrange the way we as a society look at art, fashion, design & more.
How can the fashion scene, for instance, have come to a point in which it needs to reinvent itself every 6 months, throwing away whatever they had in a previous season, still knowing that a huge percentage of people need clothes on a daily basis? The whole fashion industry would score badly in our holistic creation diagram, and the market approach needs to be rethought.

The way to do this: mapping of creative thinkers
The mapping of creative thinking should be done with an utter respect and completely unbiased. Prima donna’s in the different industries will not score high in a holistic creation process. Let me take the example of Solomons radio.
Personally I believe his art and creation tells a genuine and authentic story. He creates his radios because of the needs – people in Soweto want a radio to listen to local news and soccer games. But what he creates, the way he creates, and the final result, are showing a huge potential in view of the previous chart.
In one such a radio, we can find craftsmanship, vision, heritage, communication, recycling and pride. I believe it’s art and much more than that. I believe Solomon deserves to be mapped as a creative thinker. And if by any chance I can sell one of his radios from Soweto in a European art fair for a price that would fit the concept and the object’s meaning , he will have a couple of year’s income for his family.
Am I living with my head in the clouds or on ideatopia? Or will we really be able to change the weather?

Jan Van Mol, Geneva 2010


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