You can measure the maturing of a startup into another Big Business by its edifices. Often, you can even measure the apogee of success by its edfices. Starting up, its all about low-cost, renting and what-ever works. When gargantuan, expensive and starchitect-driven headquarters rise, it often becomes a forget-the-cost, own, and ego exercise. With tech companies, there is always an overlay message of promoting more innovation by building bigger, better space.
We now have huge, new headquarters going up for Apple, Amazon and a bunch of other companies. I was an business journalist for many years at BusinessWeek and I can tell you that on Wall Street, this would be a sign that the companies have shifted from Growth to Value–from innovation to milking the innovation to squeeze out money.
Its all good. Creative Destruction depends on moving along the curve of creativity and innovation. But how to assess that movement? Look to a company’s edifice complex.
It was buried in the New York Times and absent from the Financial Times, but today the official JOBS Act went into effect–expanding crowd funding from a niche to a platform scaler of creativity. This is a very big deal. I repeat–this is a very big deal. With Kickstarter and Indiegogo, we can act as patrons, participate in creativity and get a “thingie,” a product in return. With the JOBS Act, we can put our money into something and get a monetary return on it, not just a product. This allows all of us to be venture capitalists.
I call this Indie Capitalism and it amounts to the resocialization of capitalism. We have been living in Financial Capitalism for the past 20 years, where the economic system was all about market transactions for money. Financial Capitalism made nearly all of us consumerists–we simply bought stuff on the market and defined our lives, our status, out culture by what we consumed and money.
Indie Capitalism, Kickstarter and crowdfunding will change us into Makers and Participants in a different sort of system, an Engagement Economy. We can all be investors, creators, participators and consumers at the same time. We can take the power away from distant finance people and claim it as our own.
The JOBS Act was delayed by a year by government regulators afraid of fraud in crowd funding. They worried that naive people would invest in bad or phony businesses. Given the fraud of the prevailing Finance Economy by the banks, ratings companies and investment bankers that brought on the Great Recession, this concern is laughable while laudable. Banks had to pay fines for their dastardly deeds, but were allowed to deny any guilt. CEOs received bonuses, not prison sentences. Let’s hope the regulation for crowd funding is better.
For real coverage of crowd funding, check out Amy Cortese.
Amy’s book, Locavesting, is the best analysis around of this new–and hopefully better- form of capitalism.
New York City went through a long contest to pick the next taxi and a Nissan van won. Along with lots of cabbies, riders and Made-in-the-USA folks, I was never really happy with the choice. I loved the old, roomy Ford Crown Victoria and every other car since has been uncomfortable, cheap and unlovable. Sure, the Nissan van will be roomy but have you looked at it? Tall, boxy, ugly, with sliding doors, which practically every aging Boomer I know hates. Hard on the hands.
So why not the fabulous Tesla? It’s as luscious as the Crown Vic, Made-in-California, roomy–and all-electric! New York needs an iconic taxi and the Tesla taxi could do that.
OK, the Tesla S model is expensive. We could wait a couple of years for the less expensive version. Or perhaps the next mayor of New York could work out a deal with founder Elon Musk for 30,000 cars over 3 years to bring the cost down. How about leasing? Maybe the city could pick up the cost of recharging so it would be free to taxi owners.
Common. New York is a city of Creative Congestion. We need a great taxi to be congested in. The Tesla Taxi–sounds good, right?
At this 5-Year Anniversary of the crash of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of the Great Recession, we are stuck in a weak recovery (except for stocks and those who own them), with unemployment still at 7.3%. Good-paying jobs are hard to come by and lots of folks have just bailed out of the job market entirely.
There may be a better way. Mike Mandel, one of the best economists around, thinks that The Internet of Things has the potential of igniting a new manufacturing boom in the US. He may be right. We need to get rid of the Finance Capitalism that has taken over and get back to Making again.
Here is Mike’s report:
Of all the innovations of the past 20 years, one of the most powerful has been financial innovation. Wall Street “quants” used technology and math to create new financial instruments that sliced and diced mortgages and sold the resulting "derivatives" around the globe. In the end, this financial innovation triggered a huge crisis that nearly tanked the entire global economy. We are still suffering from low employment as a consequence.
Larry Summers, who just withdrew his name for consideration of running the Fed, the US central bank, was a key innovator in financial innovation. In the Clinton Administration he pushed for deregulating the banks and for not regulating the new financial products. He believed in financial “modernity,” the creation of new financial products and services and the efficacy of markets to always make the right decisions. In his way, Summers was a huge promoter of innovation. And the failure of that innovation is what tanked his candidacy for the Fed. Congress, especially liberal Congress people, hold him personally responsible for the havoc that followed financial innovation.
So let’s take a minute to understand something that most designers, entrepreneurs, artists and creators in general tend to forget. Creativity and innovation are value-neutral. You can do good and do bad with the new. You can even think you are doing good and still do bad with innovation.
There is a great line in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention – “Creativity must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system.” One of the key systems, of course, is the city, which is the reason why politics and elections are important to artists, entrepreneurs and all creators.
The New York City mayoral election appears to be turning out to be a huge negative for creative people. In a week when London Mayor Boris Johnson is calling for a “London Visa” to attract high tech, fashion and other talent to his city, New York is facing a choice between an old-fashioned liberal and an old-fashioned conservative and a return to an old 20th century era of class and ethnic conflict. Sad and boring. It’s as if the past 10 years hadn’t happened in Brooklyn, that the booming Maker Culture wasn’t there and that the soaring Gen Y and immigrant populations weren’t important. Did any of these candidates for mayor hear of Kickstarter?
To whomever eventually wins the NYC Mayor’s office, I’d like to suggest a few policies to promote what I call "Indie Capitalism.“ It’s the kind of capitalism that is remaking the face of the city. Here goes:
1) Crowdfund new housing for the middle class. Moderately priced housing is in short supply in the city, threatening to drive creative people–and lots of non-creative people–away. Brazil is pioneering the crowdfunding of skyscrapers. Why not do the same for middle class housing. Kickstart another Stuy Town–or 10 Stuy Towns.
2– Fund the student creative class. There are amazing universities in NYC where students produce remarkable work in their classes, especially senior classes. That creativity gets flushed after graduation (it goes into student portfolios). My sense is that a good third of those senior projects could become the kernel of a new businesses. Many of my students go to Kickstarter for this, but Kickstarter is a narrowly curated crowdfunder. A city-wide AppleStarter available to all MBAs, senior design students and young creators could generate lots of startups and jobs.
3–Start a "C-School” that does innovation the New York City way, putting culture, experience and engagement first in generating products and services, in contrast to the “D-School” kind of innovation out of the West Coast that is technology-centric. (I’m working on an Institute of Creativity at Parsons and this could be the foundation.)
4–Expand the Gifted & Talented public school programs. New York already spends more money on education per student ($22,000) than any other public education system in the nation. But very little goes to develop creativity. Even children who test highest for being creative have to enter a lottery to get into Gifted & Talented classes because there are so few of them. This is just nuts for a city that runs on creativity.
In fact, this whole election in New York appears nuts for a city that runs on creativity.
There is a big happening sweeping through New York City and it is officially called “Fashion Week.” But really it should be called “The Creativity Carnival” and anyone and any business interested in innovation needs to participate. Fashion Week is all about discovering what Chicago School economist Frank Knight calls “higher order wants” that people dream of, often can’t express but desperately want to have. Higher order wants are the true engine of new products, new companies and new profits.
How does Fashion Week do all that? Look at the process. It’s a series of big Play Grounds, in tents at Lincoln Center and in studios all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, where ritual, deep play by creators takes place. They offer their original ideas to fashion experts (professionals and consumers) who jury the work. It’s serious play with serious economic consequence. It is Creative Capitalism and it requires three things to work: creative people, experts who can judge cutting edge work, and scalers who can take what is judged to be great and scale it into commercial brands sold on the market. Fashion Week does all this.
I am teaching Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s book on Creativity in a course at Parsons on Creativity and Cities this week and “Chicks” says that “creativity must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system.” Fashion week is that system.
“Chicks” talks about how creativity takes place within a domain–fashion, science, math, music, health, painting–and new work is judged “creative” by a field of experts within that domain. He says that there are domains with cultures that welcome change, insist on change and those that don’t. Creativity happens fastest and most where it is core to the culture. Fashion is that kind of domain. He also says that creativity happens fastest in domain cultures that have the experienced experts to just what is truly unique. Again, Fashion is that kind of domain (see how this is important to your business culture?).
Fashion Week mirrors our society and economy because there are formal and informal Play Grounds. I went to the opening day of Fashion Week at Lincoln Center and the first thing I saw walking up the steps to the wide plaza were dozens of young designers who were NOT invited into the official Fashion Week runway tent all dressed up in their own clothes being photographed by dozens of friends and professional photographers. They were all posting their own fashion blobs and sites or the many other online “street” fashion sites.
Social media is expanding both the domain of Fashion and the field of “experts” who judge new work. It was amazingly cool and a significant addition to capitalism. What is “creative” is increasingly being determined by the “crowd” expert. It may be that extending the domain and field of experts wider changes the nature of Flow (“Chick’s biggest intellectual contribution). There is a big new push on Flow research. When you talk to brilliant tennis players, chess players, artists, designers or basketball players–really brilliant– they always talk about being "3 to 4 moves ahead” of their competition. So Flow is not just a state of being, it is a state of being forward. Way forward.
Again, Fashion is a domain where experts reward that kind of Flow. Runway shows are about showing off cutting edge fashion that then gets toned down for the prevailing market. But the goal is to go way forward. Alexander McQueen was brilliant at this. And the Lincoln Center Plaza unofficial runway show allowed for even wilder fashion looks, maybe 4 or 5 moves ahead.
When we talk about innovation and creativity, we need to understand the relationship between creator, culture and the city. Fashion Week in New York highlights all this. Fashion Week is about a lot more than just fashion.
The dismal New York Mayoral campaign has me wondering if we might be seeing the peak of New York as a creative, innovative hub for this cultural/economic cycle. The biggest political themes are class and ethnic conflict revolving around “You got yours, I want mine” politics. What I don’t hear is an understanding of why New York is so “hot” right now, while Paris is not and why dynamic young people from all over the world are moving the to Big Apple and not to Rome.
I am not hearing much about innovation and startups, incubators and universities, Kickstarter and MakerBot, creativity and economic growth, the data-driven economy and the art-driven real estate market. There is silence about the need for better gifted-and-talented public school programs or better tax-breaks to build middle-income rentals for the people who are not Russian moguls and escaping Chinese plutocrats. Does any candidate even know about what is happening in Brooklyn and the Brand Brooklyn? Or understand what the growing share economy means?
Meanwhile, over in London, mayor Boris Johnson is calling for a “London Visa” to attract more talent. The special visa would target high tech startup people, hot fashion designers and creators of all sorts to London. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/62459d68-1701-11e3-bced-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz2eJGbJSik
Now that’s brilliant thinking. I hear nothing of the sort from the horde of candidates wanting to become mayor of New York City.
I am co-teaching a grad course at Parsons this fall on Creativity and the City which examines the crucial role cities play in engaging and promoting our creativity.
This week in class we are reading Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s book “Creativity,” focussing on his chapter on Creativity and the Renaissance which deals with the rise of Florence. It’s so good I could cry. He says that “…creativity, must, in the last analysis, be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationship within a system."
The ultimate system, or "domain” as “Chicks” calls it, is the city. Without the proper leadership which understands the value of creativity to both society and the economy, you won’t get creativity. Without the right kind of patrons who support creativity, the right kind of experts who can recognize creativity and the right kind of spaces and neighborhoods where creative people are drawn to live, you’re not going to get creativity.
Bloomberg, a high-tech financial entrepreneur, who became the single largest philanthropist in New York City, understood most of this. But who among the seven candidates running for mayor really does? Beats me and I have to vote next week.
It is Fashion Week in NYC and an incredible number of hugely talented fashion creatives are crawling its streets. Samsung needs to hire some of them. Perhaps it is not as bad in real 3D, but the new Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch really seems ugly/clunky to me.
Google Glass has serious value issues with privacy but it looks very cool on the face–thanks to Google hiring a Swedish industrial designer, hooking up with Warby Parker and Sergey hanging out at runway shows with Diane Von Furstenberg. Who are the guys in Seoul hanging out with?
Tech companies moving into “wearable technology” really need to start hiring graduates They have been designing wearable technology for eons–call them clothes, eyeglasses, shoes, hats….Each draps the body, extending and enhancing its capabilities. Clothes frame and reframe identities and personalities. They allow you to try them on and become someone, something else.
Fashion designers know all this already–and have amazing skills at understanding the deep meaning of “wearing” and the true purpose of “technology” in peoples’ lives. They also live in a global world and understand the importance of mining culture, male/female, Chinese/American/boomer/gen y. They are deep into “Making” culture–indeed, unlike other designers, they never left it. They do two collections a year–they create twice a year, year after year. And designers are hugely entrepreneurial, they love to set up their own businesses.
So Samsung and other wearable technology companies, listen up. Hire fashion designers if you want people to actually love your technology. And check out the Fashion Week runway shows now:
It’s all about creative intelligence.
I just came across a Wall Street Journal piece that I wrote for their online Speakeasy column when my book, Creative Intelligence, came out. It’s one of my best pieces. I especially like the “10 Fast Ways to Boost Your Creativity.”
10 Fast Ways to Boost Your Creative Intelligence
1) Find a creative friend. The social aspect of creativity cannot be underestimated. Spending time with creative peers can boost your energy and help you identify your own creative skills.
2) Map your creativity. Keep a daily journal about the places and activities that inspire you. Add something new one every month. Just changing the way you go to work every day can help.
3) Go for a long walk–or run or bike ride. Give yourself “zone-out” time to let your mind integrate all the new ideas you’re taking in. Creativity is social but still requires “alone time” too.
4) Conduct a “creativity audit.” Take a weekend to think about the knowledge and skills you have that you might be underutilizing. Dive deep into yourself. Bring a close friend to help.
5) Play the “reframe game.” Is your business or industry stagnating? Change the conventional wisdom about the way things have always been done and create something entirely new by connecting two previously unrelated ideas.
6) Find a wanderer. In their heyday, the labs at HP were hugely creative thanks to the founders’ policy of “managing by wandering around.” They choose promising research and championed it. Seek out the person at your organization who can help you bring your ideas into the world.
7) Become a wanderer. Find out what your colleagues and employees are thinking about and ask yourself: how can you help support their ideas? Can you become the person who makes things happen, whether by partnering with them or hooking them up with the right people?
8) Slow down. The rise in social media has left many of us longing for deeper, more meaningful experiences and engagements. There is an increasing need for people and organizations who can devise ways to help people simplify their lives.
9) Venture past the possible. We are often so accustomed to seeing things in a certain way that we’re blind to the possibility of something we can’t yet imagine. Set aside time each week to think about why things are the way they are, and imagine them differently.
10) Embrace uncertainty . There is so much change in our lives and in our work that it scares us, even paralyzes us. Yet uncertainty offers the greatest opportunities. With the right creative skills, you can make uncertainty a place of discovery for you.