How Being Creative Sells but You Need to be Bold and D&I
It was the festival of leading creatives in the UK, a creative coalition of producers, idea-realisers, policy makers and government officials.
Three days of creative debate spread across issues such as:
- Investing in the Future: The Importance of R&D and Experimentation in Driving Creativity
- The Role of Investment in the Immersive Economy
- Rebuilding Creative Britain
Rebuilding Creative Britain had the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer MP set out her pledge to build upon Britain’s creative economy which prior Covid contributed to more than £100bn to government coffers and accounted for more than 2 million jobs. There’s some repairing too post-Brexit.
The Secretary of State’s speech omitted the gift that keeps on giving. The fuel for creativity is as much about diversity and innovation of thought as it is fundamentally about people, different people whose ideas are given freely within a network or lifted from afar. Diversity and Inclusion sells.
This was the idea that the Head of D&I at Creative UK Sarah Gregory and I shared a couple of months ago that would form our panel with leading entrepreneurs and creative thinkers. Just how do you drive deeper diversity and inclusion which amounts to deeper engagement with audiences?
This week by his own merit Jason Arday became the youngest Black Professor at Cambridge at 36 years of age. The ‘Arday effect’ was in full swing as international news marvelled over his achievements. Suffering from autism and global development delay meant he only started to read and write at 18.
It’s a story of triumph and the inspiration he sets for others. But you can’t help thinking if you’re from Cambridge University HR or the Vice Chancellor’s office how delighted you must feel about the publicity and the knock on effect.
Our session was a lively debate and by its feedback was well received. We pushed. How can we go beyond much of the current debate? The session when it becomes available is worth your time. Isobel Kent a Children’s Book Editor was one of many viewers who left a kind message on my linkedin:
“This was a brilliant session with such an insightful panel. Thank you for chairing”.
In short the talk’s twin approach was firstly engagement with the creative sector to keep them honest. What can’t be measured can’t be improved upon Dr Carlton Brown MBA relaid to the audience, adding data mattered as he dissected the illusion of inclusion.
Researched reports are necessary and allyship to create partnerships with stakeholders said Charisse Beaumont CEO and founder of Black Lives In Music. She has good reason for retiring the word, “Diversity” as a loaded word.
Sarah Gregory pointed to the second theme echoed by the panel, hold the industry to account by all means whilst deepening your own creative (collaborative) lane. There’s a belief system that should be nurtured, harnessed, bottled and shared.
All three expert speakers underlined a thread: Be creative, be bold and be in service. Be in service is the motto for panelist and collaborator Simone Pennant MBE who’s building television leadership programmes for a new generation. Sadly, she and fellow panelist Y-vonne Hutchinson couldn’t make it on the day.
The question for employers is where do they fall in this matrix?
Be creative, be bold and be in service may sound glib, but it’s framed my work externally and University such as our StoryLab. I have many people to thank (allies) such as Jude Kelly CBE — one of the UK’s foremost leading creatives. Jude set up Women of the World (WoW) — an event held in more than a 100 countries in the world today.
Prior to WoW Jude was the artistic director of the UK’s leading creative arts centre, the Southbank Centre, where she invited me to join a select group as Artist in Residence.
“What you were doing in 2011 with creativity and journalism, is what the industry is trying to do now”, Jude swelled my ego.
Back in 2011, from a PhD, industry and ongoing research from fifteen countries across the globe that including the UK, US, Ghana, Norway, Russia, and China etc I had developed how you tell factual stories, news, in an immersive way that audiences said resembled cinema. The study also led to a methodology behind Applied Storytellers — storytellers who use applied science and congnition, as well as acting as multi-hyphenates.
The analogy, as a former Applied Chemist myself is this. It’s the story teller who creates products beyond stories, just as an Applied Chemist creates goods on the back of the Chemists’ theoretical work.
This, my story on Lemn Sissay, a fellow Artist in Residence turned around in a couple of hours.
An example of this would be The Leaders’ List, produced by a small team led by Simone Pennant MBE and I. It’s a story of the UK’s leading Black and Brown Media practitioners which was turned into a gallery exhibition, a book and iconic photos that toured the London Mayor’s office, schools and was praised by the DCMS. Bringing audiences around a theme of excellence, and making them privy to personnel or ideas is good business.
Be creative, be bold, be in service refers to ideation, policy, strategy, and breaking through the resilience of legacies in form and language. How things are done, because we have come to think that’s the best and only way.
Easier done if you consider yourself a creative, someone who sees how obscure dots join together to woo an audience. It requires Fox traits according to Professor Tetlock an expert in Super forecasting which underpins the creative course I run at University.
Be bold; size matters. Artists know this implicitly. A statement that leaves the audience enthralled often lives long in the memory. This week the story of two survivors of the 1921 massacre of Black people in Tulsa (described as Black Wall Street the US) were granted citizenship of Ghana.
Hughes Van Ellis, 102, and his older sister Viola Ford Fletcher, 108 are not just the oldest US citizens to become Ghanaians because this remarkable story has so many levels.
Reported in the Washington Post, ( thanks to my bro Kwaku A. Sakyi-Addo) it lit up the Internet. It’s a story of epic scale and cinemacity with themes of wealth in its history. Tulsa’s wealth it was the Wall Street of its age; Ghana, thenthe Gold Coast, both plundered by others and now two stories merge.
Alongside Ghana’s creative features in the year of return and beyond, these are not just feel good stories, but Applied Stories in situ.
Be in service; it’s about the audience and enriching them em masse. This week I shared a private idea with a senior diplomatic official who asked why no one had put it into place.
Be creative, be bold, be in service has framed how I’ve worked and I share these four examples as outcomes: Google, The British Library, The Future of Journalism Conference at Cardiff University and creating the visuals for President Obama’s 100 Days celebration at the Southbank Centre.
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Why therefore do some people, organisations, resist funding creativity and bringing together different people? Often an idea that transfers into a prototype involves lots of moving parts, and mainstream educational and business modular systems invariably suffer inertia. How those parts work together easily isn’t made easier.
This is what Applied Storytelling (AS) that envelops systems and design thinking attempts to disrupt. AS encourages being a multi-hyphenate.
An added issue with creativity as a business is its utility is often viewed as amorphous. Investing in resources like gas, stock, tech software appear tangible. A film, event, premiere, perhaps not so, because of legacy thinking.
At the point where a film generates tons of cash, then all bets should be off, but the fallacy still persists of the risk of investment in the creative services versus STEM or business ideas.
That mindset can change with stronger leadership, and more persuasive evidence (I’m happy to provide, Dr Carlson’s research stats are impressive) otherwise look to how consulting bodies like McKinsey or Boston, and any number of social platforms emphasise creativity, problem-solving and collaboration as the future. Be creative, be bold, be in service. We should teach this.
By the way if any execs of conference execs are reading, D&I transcends Black people talking about race and culture. Every session should have that in mind booking talent.