Charles Leadbeater, author and former adviser to Tony Blair, opened the Picnic conference in Amsterdam today with a keynote about collaborative creativity. He started with a statement about collaboration: “it not just applies to high tech, new media, and culture, but also to social challenges – like the environment. Collaborative action is not just about new things, but about very broad challenges. We’ll have to bring different people together”.
He wrote the book “We Think” about this, but don’t worry, you won’t have to buy it. According to Leadbeater, several people told him a four-minute YouTube video gives a good idea of his book.
When showing this video to his 13-year old, the young fella patted him on the back and left after two minutes. 92,000 other people did like the video though and left over 300 comments. “It’s the beginning of a conversation”, said Leadbeater.
He then showed a video that his kid probably liked better: a teenager playing along on his electric guitar with a synthesized version of Bach’s Air. Leadbeater: “49 milion people around the globe spend five minutes of their lives on watching this kid playing his guitar. Just image he would have told the BBC controller of entertainment whether she wanted to show this five-minute clip. (..) Get out of here, would have been the definite answer. Thanks to the web this boy didn’t have to go through all that. It’s the new world.”
Leadbeater talked about the changed media environment. How the old media world existed of a few major players and the millions of smaller parties that have now popped up. “The challenge is to connect them and try to make something more out of it than just bits”. This is of the utmost importance, because creativity mostly flourishes because of collaborative action. “It’s a myth that creativity always comes from a single person with a brilliant insight. Most creative ideas come from people blending and mixing things”, said Leadbeater.
Yet not all collaboration leads to creativity. Sometimes there’s too much consensus (boring) or too much chaos (leads to nothing). To get us started, Leadbeater shared five key conditions for stimulating creativity through collaborative action.
- Diversity is king, participants need to think differently and have different knowledge.
- Give people ways to contribute. They need really simple ways to add their piece of information.
- Connect people with each other by using the most suitable technology
- The most important one: participants must have a shared sense of purpose and an individual sense of pay-off. Use a mascot or something.
- Communities need to have some element of structure to make decisions.
[Photo credit: Jaap Stronks]