Monday, June 25, 2007

That's rich...

'Rich with ideas'. That is the motto of Idealog magazine transplanted by its new owners after I had sold my stake in the business. Their prerogative, I suppose. I haven't been comfortable with it since it was first mooted. The original idea was 'the voice of the creative economy'- which, intentionally, had an old-world charm and was focused on giving a voice to the people who do the work (I don't believe organsiations are creative - but dependent on the individual talents they organise).

So, what is my problem with 'Rich with ideas'? Its short and sweet. It contains an alluring promise...perfect, surely?

Actually it is anathemic to most of the people who are actually engaged in the creative economy. But, perhaps, it is important to restate my understanding of what the creative economy is (in alphabetical order):


* Advertising
* Architecture
* Art markets
* Crafts
* Design
* Designer fashion
* Film and video
* Interactive leisure software
* Music
* Performing arts
* Publishing
* Software and computer services
* Television and radio

I have referred to this before (Portrait of the creative economy as a dog).

As I said, looking at that list, I don't think most of the people who are actively engaged in creating in these categories don't do it because they want to 'Get Rich'. Wealth may well be the by-product of their effort but that is not why they do it.

I'm reminded of one of my father's favourite quotations: A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. (I wonder if he realised he was quoting an old poof?)

Let's not be cynical about the importance of creativity. I am very, very tired of hearing truisms like: "Ideas don't matter except when they get done."

I'm sorry but that is simply not true.

Ideas matter. Full stop.

I placed a full point there on purpose. Emphatically. Ideas don't have to get done. Some should not be done but that does not diminish their importance.

Think about it.

Good ideas don't arrive fully and perfectly formed. If you think they do then you are subscribing to some Aristotelean era concept like being visited by the Muses. I don't go in for paganism or deism of any kind. So, when I have ideas they are usually the product of some thought work. A single good idea is often result of dozens of malformed, idiotic and often (frankly) laughable notions.

What is my point?

The piles of undone ideas left lying around are the prototypes for good ones I have developed. It is not widely appreciated that the majority of research in our economy occurs while sitting lazily on the edge of the wharf on the Hokianga, waiting for a nibble (or insert your own place of thought - my shower cubicle has also been extraordinarily productive for me - which makes me wonder why most of my employers, who paid me to have ideas, always gave me a desk but never a nice bathroom with loads of hot water an big fluffy towels).

Most research is not happening in research labs of major universities. Yet where does the majority of money go? It is wasted bothering rats and monkeys or whatever it is that goes on in the hallowed halls of science (the astute among you, will note science is absent from the list of activities in the creative sector).

Don't be deceived though. I advocate for participants in the creative economy. I created Idealog to promote this sector and my concern was for our economy generally.

New ideas will be a source of wealth. But the idea is not to get 'rich'. The most productive creative people are those who have loads of ideas (who said there's nothing more dangerous than an idea - if it's the only one you have). They do not fear failure. They love what they do.

If others love it too, then wealth is created.

Over-emphasising a 'show me the money' culture will only lead to a distorted view of the world - one where KPIs and ROIs are brought to bear on the use of precious resources. It's daft. Before you know it the bean counters have donned black suits and shirts and called themselves 'creative'...because we all are, aren't we?

Rich with ideas? If you're lucky - and can keep the greedy, cynical and exploitative out of your bathroom.

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