An invite to creative thinkers who want to meet other, more diverse creative people and collaborate on briefs for social change. First event planned in NY for May/June but looking for more willing accomplices...
Coffee House Creative A Design Experiment with a Social Conscience
Where Good Ideas Come From?I don’t know about you, but for me and the work I do, this is a prettyimportant question. Perhaps you’ve read Steven Johnson’s book by thesame title, perhaps not. Either way, let me share with you why it’simportant enough for me to be writing this.Ideas - in all their wonderful shapes and sizes - are the lifeblood ofinnovation, and these precious little commodities are also the dailygrind for you and I.Mr. Johnson has an interesting idea. Looking back over the history ofinnovation, he suggests that good ideas emerge out of strikingly similarenvironments. In short: high-density, liquid networks of creativethinkers given both the opportunity and the forum for “spillover” ofideas.A primordial soup of creative opportunity.
It’s intuitive really. Johnson brings a myriad of examples from nature,commerce and the sciences, but the one that stuck with me was thecoffee house phenomenon of the early Renaissance period.Creative thinkers from all walks of life would coalesce around thecoffee shop and, in a caffeine-fueled frenzy, exchange ideas thatinvariably led to bigger, better, more diverse creations than anyonecould have imagined.Of course, Johnson also points out that up until this point, beer and wine hadbeen the staple drinks of the day, and as such the creative revolution mayhave simply been a factor of a long overdue stint of sobriety – but we’llignore that for now.So what’s my point?
Where’s our coffee shop?Starbucks isn’t cutting it.Nor is any other coffee shop I’ve been to lately.Last time I checked, the common scene in these much-lovedestablishments was one of the lone-creative-genius, half melting Frap inhand, Macbook planted ﬁrmly in the middle of the table, headphonesresolutely plugged, vehemently repelling any suggestion of conversationfrom fellow coffee drinkers.Hardly the picture of a hungry little carbon molecule just bursting toconnect with some other friendly protein in the aforementionedprimordial soup of creativity (ok, I’ll drop the soup bit now, but it’s justsuch a good metaphor).The trouble is, while we talk a lot about convergence of media,channels, technologies and the like, we still have more creativespecialties (read “silos”) than ever and we tend to mix in our ownlittle cliques. We rarely, if ever, get to rub shoulders - let alone greymatter - with other more diverse creative talent, and we are poorerfor it.
“But what about wonderful collaborative innovation networks likeopenIDEO?” you might ask. Good point, they are indeed awesome, andI’m a fully signed-up member.But here’s the rub. Despite best intentions and a good platform forinspiring, conceptive ideas, it’s still predominantly individualistic, withlittle real development of ideas by the creative community engaged.People tend to rank and vote, but rarely “build”.And this brings me to my point...[at last]
COPYWRITER NOVELIST ARTIST INT SPEECH WRITER JOURNALIST TRAV The Coffee House Reborn PROGRAMMER CORRESPONDENT MI’m putting together a little club of sorts - a new-age coffee house club ANIMATOR PHOTOGRAPHER MUSICI MICRO FINANCIER DOCUMENTARIANin fact. In doing so, I’m hoping, to artiﬁcially recreate the environmentthat proved to be so fruitful over a millennium ago.I’m inviting friends and friends of friends, all of whom represent great,old and new, creative disciplines. It’s a diverse bunch for sure, we’ll INTERIOR DESIGNER ART DIRECTOR ANTHROPOLOGISTTRAVELER SINGEhave artists, musicians, copy-writers, designers, speech-writers, creativetechnologists, architects, documentarians, urban planners, mediastrategists, industrial designers…the list goes on.But we’re not just going to throw everyone in a room and hope for PUPPETEER SET DESIGNER GRAPHI DANCER GAME DESIGNER MUSICIANsome kind of creative spontaneous combustion (although that mightbe fun). We’re going to be focused about this and here’s how... TYPOGRAPHER MUSICIANNGO CON INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER SCREENWRI URBAN PLANNER SCULPTOR SOUN CHANGE EXPERT COMMUNICATIONS
A Tight BriefEach time we meet, we’ll focus our efforts on a speciﬁc problem. We’llexperiment with different formats, in the spirit of, well,experimentation, but we’ll always work towards a goal.A few examples;Remember the awesome openIDEO platform I mentioned before?They have some pretty tight briefs from organizations with real issuesand with real budgets to make it happen – and we’re all for that.So at one meet, we’ll take their brief, and then ﬂex our combined andconsiderable creative muscle against it. We then take the (hopefully)many ideas we generate from our modest “closed network” ofthinkers and upload them into the bigger “open-network” ofopenIDEO. We create the best of both worlds and have a jolly* goodtime in the process.At other meets, we’ll work with slightly loftier, though perhaps moreabstract ideas and see where our wonderings take us. We might lookat ideas to foster greater volunteerism in the arts. We might work onadult literacy or childhood obesity.As we gather momentum we’ll let our discussions shape future topicsfor collaboration, after all, even a tight brief needs some wriggle room.Ahem. * I’m British and so have permission to use the word “jolly”
The Format: Location: “The Local” Sullivan Street, SohoI ﬁgured this should be fun, social and infused with food and drink. That Time: 6.30 for 7pm start. 9.30/10pm Close.way if we suck, at least we’ll have a full stomach to show for ourefforts. 1. Arrivals: Drinks and hot food for all! 2. Introduction to the event and intros (I’ll share short bios)And I wanted to be honest to the idea - this originated in the coffee 3. The Brieﬁng and Inspirationhouses of northern italy, so, while a trip to Florence appeals, I’m 4. The Worksettling for the generous offer of “The Local” to open their little 1. Two team breakoutindependent coffee shop after hours for our ﬁrst evening of mis- 2. Each group led by facilitator (me and a friend)adventures. 3. Each group works on the brief, but with slight modiﬁcation/constraint* to spur different lines of exploration 5. Group ShareWe’ll have great coffee. 6. Each group shares and we have a discussion to build on the ideas 7. Wrap up 1. Agreed ideas are applauded and we all commit to earnestly review them online over the next few weeks and build further as we have our shower-epiphanies and train ride inspirations. I’ll provide logon for the collaboration platform at the meeting. 8. The Action 1. After a short window of online collaboration, the ideas are curated, polished and (if and OpenIdeo brief) uploaded into the openIDEO platform under a single user logon. If it’s a self assigend brief we perhaps upload to a CHC tumblr or even better, ﬁnd a way to make it happen *creative thinking thrives on rules, so things like; “must be sustainable”, “must be under $1000 build cost”, “must be...” you get the idea.
My dream/charter for the results of our little endeavor, in descending order of likelihood… • We ﬁrst and foremost have fun. We get to enjoy the company of new creative minds and make new friendships and connections in the process. • Our ideas are warmly received by the broader community. • Our ideas become a gold standard for quality creative solutions in CoffeeHouseCreative systems like the openIDEO collaboration model. • Steven Johnson is so overwhelmed by the genius and inferred compliment he comes to speak and participate in an event. • We are so successful, IDEO bring the team for a workshop and integrate the model into the next beta. • Word gets out and we are obliged to provide starter packs/ templates for the creation of a whole franchise across North America and ultimately global domination. • The founder club members (me in particular) become rich and famous – if you’re already rich and famous, congratulations; some of us are still working on it. Oh, and the ﬁrst round of beers are on you. I created a logo. It’s a bit rubbish* because I’m a strategist, not a designer. Perhaps our resident designer will do a better job if we meet a second time – I am, if nothing else, ever the optimist. So, are you in?* yup, still British,