Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CREA 2007 – The fifth Annual Creativity European Association conference

I spent the last week in Sestri Levante, Italy at the fifth annual CREA conference. I’ve only missed one CREA -- and the reason is because it’s a remarkable conference. Here’s what’s remarkable about CREA:

• Attending are a diverse international group of creativity and/or innovation practitioners, facilitators, and motivated-to-learn participants. The participants are people from many different countries, 23 in all this year. Some are from big corporations, but there are entrepreneur’s, consultants, and governmental types as well.
• People talk – there are a lot of friendships made at CREA, and a lot of informal business being done. It would be hard to imagine a better place to find the perfect creativity or innovation consultant for yourself or your organization. Also hard to imagine a better conference to learn more for yourself. CREA’s only real competition is the CPSI conference (www.cpsiconference.com), which is larger and older, and also a great conference, but I’d have to say less intimate. Former CPSI participants who wanted to recreate the experience with a European flavor organized CREA; I’d say they have succeeded.
• Longer format immersion courses (16 hours spread over four days) offer an opportunity to really learn and integrate creative process and technique. We’re talking Deep Learning, the kind that becomes a part of your life. These sessions go way beyond typical conference overview fare. There are some short sessions as well, which they call Expo’s, and while shorter, these are also highly experiential and impactful.
• Hats off to the conference organizers on many aspects of the conference. First and foremost is a dedication to quality programming. Their Discovery course of creative problem solving is the only public offering of the new Thinking Skills model articulated by Gerard Puccio, Mary Murdock, and Marie Mance in their seminal book Creative Leadership. I’d call that cutting edge. Fair to mention here I was one of the instructors of Discovery English, so I’m biased. On the other hand I have no vested interest in the conference, I am a volunteer – and yes, I do it for free. Why? I wouldn’t miss being with this community. I wouldn’t miss my own chance to learn.
• Sessions are held in Italian, French, and English. The facilitators are a mixed lot from all over Europe, the USA and South America. They are some of the world’s most successful consultants and practitioners in creativity or innovation.
• Sestri Levante, Italy is a delightful place. Located about an hour’s drive south of Genoa on the Mediterranean coast, the conference is spread over four hotels and two meeting facilities, all short walks from each other. The views are fabulous, the kind that scream for a painter to come and capture in watercolors or oils. Sestri has two small bays nestled into the rocky and hilly coastline of Italy and the old world ambience of the village. The local people are friendly, you can walk, or even swim at the pristine beach -- the whole place exudes authentic charm.
• Did I mention the food is fantastic? It’s buffet eating and it’s marvelous. Lots of seafood and unique Italian specialties, local breads and cheeses. And wine with both lunch and dinner. Again, not your typical conference.
• You’ve missed the 2007 conference but consider attending in 2008. The conference maxes out at about 300, so I would suggest you check into their website often and register at the first opportunity. For more information: http://www.creaconference.org/

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Seven Crazy Ideas

It occurred to me that I don’t often share my very different thinking and frankly wacky ideas. I have a lot of ideas – I get paid to have them for my clients – and because they are in the corporate for-profit context I’m not able to talk about them. However, I have ideas about a lot of things, products, the environment, government, services that just come to me from out of the blue. Here are a few I’ve been thinking about lately in no particular order. Feel free to send me “builds” -- that’s what blogs are for.

1. Create a Great American Car

I heard Bill O’Rielly on the radio a couple days ago and he was talking about his personal dilemma of finding a good mileage, decent sized (for a tall man) American car. He said he couldn’t find one. Bill and I agree on this! There aren’t great options out there when you want to buy American. My idea is a simple one and not a new one, but why doesn’t Detroit build a Really Stylish, Great on Mileage (like better than ever before) car. I’m talking about one that gets like 50 MPG and has a Wow appearance. Something like this could turn that whole industry around. Tell me we don’t have the solution to a breakthrough in mileage and I’ll tell you we haven’t tried hard enough. It’s possible and if we do it we lead the world in a new technology, lower our dependence on foreign oil, and do the earth a good turn as well. While I’m at it why don’t I just state for the record that I think the assumption that we can’t manufacture anything here competitively is a load of crap. We can, it’s just a lot harder. Let’s invent a new way to manufacture cars and other heavy equipment. Decentralize? Massive automation? Both?

2. Plant a Billion Trees in 2009

We hear about the deforestation of the Amazon jungle and Madagascar. We hear about global warming and how trees can help offset carbon dioxide pollution. So, let’s do something really good for the earth and plant a billion trees a year. Arbor Day is celebrated in the USA and around the world in various forms but it’s a less-than well coordinated effort. Let’s do something on a much larger scale, which the USA, or some big company could facilitate. Could the UN take this on? I hear the skeptics chirping already, but hey, who could argue that trees are not a good thing? Perhaps we pilot the idea in 2008 in the USA and do a full-world massive planting in 2009. We might couple it with the Olympics or some other event that the world shares. Everybody benefits with more trees on this earth.

3. Thousand Dollar ($1000) “No Car” Tax Credit

There are too many cars on the road. They pollute, they cost a lot to buy and maintain, there’s no place to park, or it costs a bundle. For many people, owning a car is a complete nuisance. How about if we motivate people to use public transportation and walk or bike to work? What I propose is a hefty tax credit for people who don’t own or use a car. Maybe allow a yearly “vacation” exception. To get the credit you’d have to document selling or donating your car to charity. Then you get a $1,000 deduction. It’s good for the environment, it decongests our highways, and it rewards a healthy behavior.

4. Fund a Desalination Breakthrough with a NASA-like Program

Taking the salt out of seawater or brackish water is something we human beings should be getting better at. Why not focus our scientific resources on creating a breakthrough in this area. Do we need to spend all that money getting to Mars? Let’s do something more practical. Right now desalination is expensive, mainly because of the power required to run the pumps in a plant. So, what if we harness wind or solar power and dramatically reduce the cost? In the USA we could solve a very big problem -- the western states are running out of water fast, and need more fresh water. We need a breakthrough, and if we can put a person on the moon why can’t we desalinate seawater cheaply? Really, we need to do this now in order to stay ahead of the fresh water challenge. Many futurists and scientists are predicting drastic fresh water shortages in the next 50 years. Not to give the Saudi’s a great idea, but who has more power, more salt water, and more money? Shouldn’t they go nuts and develop this technology for their own future?

5. The Vagabonds, the Roving Football Team

Nearly all sports team are rooted to a city. The Harlem Globetrotters are the one exception and even they have a spiritual home in, well, Harlem. Many cities and towns don’t have a major sports team as there are only so many franchises and those have homes in top 25 markets. Many teams have tried to lay claim to being “America’s Team” -- what I propose is a Real America’s Team, a team with no permanent home, but would move from small city to small city every year. I’m talking football here, but it could just as easily be basketball, hockey, or baseball. The Vagabonds (my name) would all ride Harley’s into town and set up shop at a local college or municipal stadium for a season. I’m thinking cities like Dayton, Ohio, Austin, Texas, Des Moines, etc would be candidates to host the team. The city doesn’t need to go crazy building a new stadium or any of that expensive big city stuff, they would shoe horn the Vagabonds into existing facilities. The Vags would be low overhead and possibly more profitable due to that and more television exposure (all their games would be on satellite).

6. National Dog Doo System

Okay, this is a gross idea, but let’s do something with all that dog poop. It’s a complete nuisance isn’t it? And it’s an environmental nightmare as well, we bag it up in something that doesn’t biodegrade and it ends up entombed for eternity in a landfill. It’s stupid because it’s actually useful stuff. The idea here is to use all the poo for various things, energy for one, and fertilizer for another. There’s a group in San Francisco already trying this out to create energy (http://abcnews.go.com/US/TenWays/story?id=2128437&page=1) and why does that not surprise me? Fertilizer is a bit trickier as composting dog poop must be done carefully to avoid pathogens, but with the right science it’s totally doable. Somebody could make a lot of money doing this very nasty and disgusting, but smart thing. I for one would pay somebody to take the stuff off my hands – it would be a profit center even before it was converted to energy or fertilizer.

7. Personality Bar/Club

Have you ever noticed that great conversations are not all that easy to come by? We’ve all heard of speed dating and we are all aware of web-based matchmaking. Why not extend matchmaking and good old fashion companionship and conversation to a place where it’s likely to really work out? How about a public venue, a bar or a restaurant, where it’s organized around personality preferences? Where you would be directed towards people with who you are likely to communicate well? When you arrive for the first time you take a standard assessment using a touch screen; then you receive a card with a bar code that contains information about you and your personality type. This could be done with a personality preference measure like the MBTI (otherwise known as “Meyers Briggs” see http://www.myersbriggs.org/ ) . Various assessments could be used. Matches could be set up right away or you could elect to do your own mixing. When you meet someone you could use a tabletop tool and your bar codes to suggest areas of common interest and what might be fun to talk about. There could be a low stimulus introverts room. The club could organize speed dates or mixers of people who are likely to get along.