Unreasonable man. An overview of Generator 12

November 28, 2012

On November 26 and 27, our partner Margus, visited the Generator conference in Gävle, Sweden.

The reason we decided to participate in the conference was manyfold:
1. The Generator conference is not a typical creative or policy conference, but rather a meeting place to generate ideas and policy for creative and cultural industries;
2. Brand Manual is going to expand to Sweden and this was an excellent opportunity to “test the water” of how people and government think about creative businesses;
3. A conference is a wonderful place to meet like-minded people, have involving conversations and maybe find some useful contacts.

The conference was centered on the value that culture industries create. Throughout the conference there was an emphasis on proving the value of creativity to the “real” economy, both through soft examples as well through strict scientific method. Although at times the tone became apologetic: “I’m sorry, we’re artists, we don’t know how to earn money so you have to support us”, then for the majority of the program the focus was much more rationally creative.

Two speakers in particular, Julia Romanowska from Karolinska Institutet and Emma Stenström from Handelshögskolan and Konstfacket proved beyond any shadow of a doubt the importance of creativity to business leadership, the need for a greater purpose than just profit and, in the case of Ms Romanowska, that conventional business and leadership training creates worse leaders, not better.

Ms Stenström also noted, that one of the world’s leading business schools, the University of St.Gallen, includes in its business curriculum 25% of humanities education. This ensures that business decisions don’t become detached from human decisions. In fact, her presentation centered on how the business school, Handelshögskolan, has included interaction with a circus for MBA students, and how in many cases MBA students learn more from the passion that artists have for their craft, than vice-versa. That although MBA’s can put anything and everything into well thought through Excel tables, they often forget the most important question: is this something I actually want to do? For a circus artist this question has unequivocally been answered.

Overall, the take-away from the conference is that the need for a more creative approach to business is fundamental if business is to survive in the creative and service economy. As business demands more qualified people, able to manage and execute sophisticated tasks, the need for a purpose to these tasks is much more important than the profit motive.

The visible difference in the Swedish approach to the creative and culture industries, in terms of setting national priorities for industry development, and the Estonian approach in emphasizing innovation and developing a national policy based on that, is the difference between developing services and developing products.

Based on the impression of this conference, we can note with reasonable certainty, that Sweden’s name at the top of the innovative-and-dynamic-economies list is assured. Sweden’s approach is quite holistic and really brings into sharp relief the understanding of the need to provide a high-quality living environment, which enables innovation to flourish rather than trying to create innovation in order for the living environment to improve, will be the key to future growth. The focus on cultural and creative industries, from solitary painters to game developers, provides a consumable service to both locals and tourists but which in many cases has to be consumed on the spot. If these experiences are unique and valuable, they will no doubt help to boost tourism as well. Considering the growth in global travel, this is no small achievement.

A third valuable insight was offered by Simon Kyaga of the Karolinska Institutet. His presentation asked if the Mad Genius is actually fact, or fiction? As a researcher and psychologist he demonstrated his research into the topic. Thanks to the accurate files kept on patients in Sweden, he could trawl through patient data of over 300 000 people to draw the inescapable conclusion, that some kind of madness indeed does come with genius.

His summary quoted George Bernard Shaw who said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” We couldn’t agree more.

If you have Swedish skills, we highly recommend watching the presentation videos.
And here you’ll find an English summary of Simon Kyaga’s research.