Creativity has always benefitted from constraints—but Canada cannot be one of them.
In our last piece, we identified creativity as the new “it” skill, essential for our country’s enduring prosperity. But how can we weave creativity into the very fabric of Canadian culture? Fortunately, our education system and business communities recognize the importance of this new skill, and are working to foster it.
The Disruptors team spent months interviewing experts on the importance of creativity for a special two-part podcast. Here’s how our guests believe we can maximize our creative output as individuals, companies, and as a country.
Creativity starts at a young age, but needs nurturing along the way
“Students are amazingly creative and our job in the education system isn’t to make them more creative, it’s actually to keep their creativity alive,” said Josie Fung, executive director of Rotman’s I-Think. She pointed to Ontario’s play-based kindergarten approach as an important step forward.
I-Think’s work is focused on systemic change in education through integrative thinking—that is, using creativity to find new solutions to problems. As students move into post-secondary school, creativity should remain an underlying value of the system, allowing space for real-world problem solving.
“The really cool thing about creativity is that it’s an unlimited resource,” said Janet Morrison, president of Sheridan College. “It’s constantly renewed and it can be improved upon through education, experience and stimulation.”
It’s ok to fail and learn from your mistakes in the name of experimentation
Shopify can attribute much of its success to hiring smart, creative people with a “growth mindset.” Brittany Forsyth, the company’s outgoing chief talent officer was employee #22 at the firm, and had a front row seat to its exponential growth. In our chat with her, she emphasized the importance of hiring for potential versus qualifications.
“It starts with giving permission,” she said. “It’s about telling everyone who’s joining, ‘you’re going to fail and it’s actually OK to, as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice or over and over again.’ We give permission to do these key things, such as experiment, fail, grow.”
Think big picture and stay focused on the mission
Tom Waller, Lululemon’s chief science officer and SVP of advanced innovation, shared his insights about not getting too complacent.
“The important thing that we had to do was to not get too good at being Lululemon, to not get stuck in that identity that others would start to describe,” said Waller.
The most important thing is to be able to back up a little bit from the business model and look harder at the overall purpose, he noted. “The business model encourages us not to change. The purpose encourages us to change.”
Use the crisis as a catalyst to chart a better path forward
The pandemic has given us all ample time to reflect on what matters most – our health. It’s also accelerated change, and in turn, a reassessment of our values and purpose. It’s a time that has brought forth new opportunities.
“A lot of incredible things are forged in the crisis,” said Waller. “A lot of amazing inventions are formed under crisis, so I think that crisis is the one of the greatest opportunities to apply creativity.”
Speaker 1 [00:00:01] Hi, it’s John here,
Speaker 2 [00:00:02] along with Teresa from RBC Thought Leadership Team. John, can we do one of those recaps like they do on Netflix? Sure.
Speaker 1 [00:00:10] Unleash your creative spirit.
Speaker 2 [00:00:12] OK. Previously on Disruptors. I’ll do that one again.
Speaker 3 [00:00:18] Previously on Disruptors. There is no commerce without creativity. I’ve always
Speaker 2 [00:00:23] thought that creativity, imagination absolutely have to be embraced by the larger business community.
Speaker 1 [00:00:29] My view on creativity, how we teach in the business school is start by what’s the objective? What’s the purpose? What’s the thing we’re trying to do?
Speaker 5 [00:00:37] I don’t think that there’s any difference between creativity and argument. I see creativity as a form of argument.
Speaker 3 [00:00:42] I don’t think that someone’s created and they just they just wake up when the sun shines on them. I just don’t believe that’s how it works.
Speaker 2 [00:00:51] In the last episode, we started to make a case for creativity as the it skill of our time and for a renewed emphasis on creativity coming out of the pandemic. But now it’s time to dig deeper into the how
Speaker 1 [00:01:03] exactly how can we maximize our creative output as individuals, companies and as a country? And how can we weave creativity into the very fabric of Canadian culture from the classroom to the boardroom and beyond? This is Disruptors, an RBC podcast, I’m your host, John Stackhouse,
Speaker 2 [00:01:33] and I’m your co-host, Trinh Theresa Do, but please call me Theresa. Thanks for joining us for part two of our special series on creativity.
Speaker 1 [00:01:44] Once again, we have some scintillating guests lined up with really, really powerful insights to share about creativity and how to foster it. We’ll hear from Shopify, Ubisoft, Lululemon and more. But where better to begin than with a conversation about creativity in the classroom?
Speaker 2 [00:02:02] Our first guest is the head of a nonprofit focused on system change in education through what’s known as integrative thinking. It’s a concept born at the Wharton School of Management, and it’s all about using creativity to find the best possible solution to any problem.
Speaker 1 [00:02:18] Josie Fung is the executive director of I think at Rotman. And if you’re not too familiar with the Rotman School of Business, it’s certainly one of the leading business schools in Canada and among the best in the world. And it went through its own kind of creative revolution a number of years ago under a former dean, Roger Martin, who was able to transform the way management and business is taught in this country by really getting to the core of how we think. And Josie is now trying to take that a step further through the school system. She believes schools in Canada, right across the country, have had to narrow a view on creativity for way too long.
Speaker 4 [00:03:03] Historically, the education system, like the rest of us, probably put creativity in the bucket of artists. Certainly when I was growing up, that was the sense is that you went to art class to be creative. But now I think what the education is seeing is that students are amazingly creative and our job in the education system isn’t to make them more creative. It’s actually to keep their creativity alive. I have a three year old at home and what that means is like letting their imagination run wild. Something happens along the way between being three and being 18 years old, where you suddenly feel like you can’t be creative anymore. And so I think that’s what the education system is is trying to refocus itself on. About 10 years ago, Ontario came out with play based kindergarten, and I think that was a really big signal to the system to value. What does playing creativity mean? How do you infuse that into the education? We’re starting with kindergarten, but how do you actually infuse it throughout the system?
Speaker 2 [00:04:01] Josie, I mentioned integrative thinking right off the top, and it’s part of the guiding methodology for, I think, as well as the Rotman School. Could you explain what it is for those who aren’t familiar and why it’s so important,
Speaker 4 [00:04:13] so integrative thinking? Is this idea developed by Roger Martin, who said, when you’re stuck in a place where you trying to make a decision, you could go down path A or you could go down path B.. Conventionally, we feel like our job is to simply choose between the two. But what if instead we didn’t think of ourselves as as needing to choose but to actually our job is to actually create to create a new and better idea that is created from elements of both Path A and from Path B. And on a practical level, what that means is the recognition that there is no one way to do things and that our job is actually to be constantly searching for new ways to approach the problems that we’re constantly facing.
Speaker 1 [00:04:55] So if integrative thinking is, as Roger himself says, a creative act, how can we ensure students maintain that creative mindset as they enter the workforce and are faced with, frankly, some of the constraints that can come with the corporate world
Speaker 4 [00:05:11] when it comes to creativity? In our experience, what we’ve seen is creativity is actually thrives on constraints. And the key is actually the mindset of thinking what your job is. The best way we can foster young people to be thinking about their rule is being creative and imaginative. To create new ideas is to ask them instead of asking, are you doing the job you’re being told to do, or are you solving the problems that we need to solve in the world? Instead of thinking smaller, we actually need to be thinking bigger. When we started our work with I think we thought that if we gave students kind of open reign on creating ideas, that would be the way for it. And what we actually heard is that by giving a little more structure, by giving a few more constraints, it actually helped channeled their creativity.
Speaker 2 [00:06:00] If I can ask you to step back, Josie, and look at the big picture, when you think about the broader world and Canada’s place in it, how do we compare to other nations when it comes to creativity?
Speaker 4 [00:06:11] I think Canada’s up there, but I think we have some choices ahead of us. If we don’t act carefully, what makes us be really successful and have a lot of potential for being high on that creativity index is our diversity in a given classroom. Sometimes we have as many as 21 different languages being spoken in that classroom. Just imagine the number of experiences these students have, the perspectives they have, the experiences that they’ve drawn from their families, the more we can bring that. Around the table, the more we have the opportunity to create new and amazing ideas, I think that future capital is a place where there’s a hub of innovation. And instead of thinking about tech and innovation hubs being localized in one geography, it’s a nation of creativity. It’s a nation that generates all sorts of ideas that fuel the world,
Speaker 1 [00:07:03] ideas that fuel the world. You know, for an energy power like Canada, maybe we can also be a creative energy power. It’s an inspiring vision, Teresa.
Speaker 2 [00:07:13] Absolutely, John. But, you know, there are sectors where Canadian creativity is already fueling the world, like the animation industry. And that’s thanks in large part to one school in particular. Found it right here in Ontario in nineteen sixty seven.
Speaker 1 [00:07:27] If you’re a fan of Toy Story and who isn’t, you can find the roots for many of Hollywood’s greatest animation productions over the last generation. Right here in Canada, Sheridan College has been called the Harvard of Animation Schools, with grads going on to key roles at companies like Pixar, Disney and DreamWorks. We had a chance to chat with Sheraton’s President Janet Morrisson and began by asking her how she defines creativity.
Speaker 5 [00:07:54] From my vantage point, it’s a way of thinking. It’s a way of problem solving, a way of contemplating ideas, alternatives, possibilities, all to the purpose of moving the world forward. As I think about it, it really enables people to experiment and drive, change, even, frankly, when knowledge runs out. And the really cool thing about creativity is that it’s an unlimited resource. It’s constantly renewed and it can be improved upon through education, experience and stimulation. So so I think regardless of how you define it, it’s increasingly acknowledged as fundamental to the planet’s social, political and economic future.
Speaker 2 [00:08:37] Jennet is creativity something students have to have when they walk in the door on that very first day of class? Or can it be taught?
Speaker 5 [00:08:45] I think creativity can be innate to some. For others, though, my experience has really affirmed that it can be learned and that can happen through formal educational environments or through curation and lived experience. You can really honestly teach creative problem solving and human centered design, for example, that at the end of the day help people confront complex issues and the challenges they’ll inevitably face regardless of their profession.
Speaker 1 [00:09:15] How do we take advantage of this moment? The frenzy of change and adaptation caused by the pandemic to put a renewed focus on creativity?
Speaker 5 [00:09:24] Well, as the world around us is being disrupted, educators, me included, really need to evolve our programing and our curriculum, which is what we teach and our pedagogy, which is how we teach it to cultivate or curate creativity and innovation, because I think there’s a crisis of innovation in the world right now. And if we assume that creativity is foundational to that, it makes that imperative all the more clear. The key piece that I’m always mindful of is that creativity rests on ideation and distillation and so really encouraging yourself to think freely outside of the box, blue skying, some people like to say, and then working diligently to distill, iterate and ultimately prototype depending on what the process is.
Speaker 1 [00:10:21] You can’t have a conversation about creativity and innovation in Canada without talking about this next company in 2004, it was a startup that sold snowboards online today by Market Cap, its Canada’s most valuable company, an e-commerce platform. The powers, more than one million businesses across a hundred and seventy five countries.
Speaker 2 [00:10:44] And we’re talking, of course, about one of Canada’s great success stories, Shopify. And part of the reason it’s been so successful is its ability to scout and hire smart, creative people. Brittany Forsyth is Shopify as outgoing chief talent officer. Brittany, welcome to Disruptors.
Speaker 5 [00:11:00] Thanks for having me.
Speaker 2 [00:11:02] Shopify has been called one of Canada’s most innovative companies. What’s the relationship between creativity and innovation?
Speaker 5 [00:11:10] Creativity is the space in which you play, and I think innovation is the outcome that results from the creativity, actions or effort that gets put in. When I think about creativity, I think about it being the environment that you create. I think about the behaviors and beliefs that one holds. And I think the innovation, like I said, is the outcome. It’s a measurement of how creative you’ve been able to be and how bold you are in the execution of it. What I love about the creative space that we’ve formed in Shopify is that we have built an environment that allows for risk taking, that allows for curiosity and resourcefulness, that allows for reactions, because generally when you’re being creative, you’re removing constraints, you’re removing the barriers that sometimes hold us all in to just repeat and do the same thing over and over again. And with all of that comes a lot of failures as well. But I think that’s en route to innovation.
Speaker 1 [00:12:03] I wonder, Brittney, about the key characteristics of creatives, the ways in which you measure a person’s creative capacity. What qualities do you look for in potential employees?
Speaker 5 [00:12:15] Curiosity is foundational. The ability to acquire information and get curious and actually build zeitgeist knowledge. So to look for information that’s going to challenge you, that’s outside of all of our echo chambers or bubbles to really challenge us and to think anew is really, really critical to be able to then imagine a future that’s different than what is. We also look for people that have a past track record of being curious and impactful and thinking outside the box. And I would say the third point is probably just a growth mindset. So a constant learner, someone that is able to give themself permission to wake up smarter every day. Once again, they’re challenging themselves. They’re looking for information that’s going to teach them something new. They’re looking always at the awareness of what they know and what is the underlying assumptions that are driving things and challenging that to drive it forward.
Speaker 2 [00:13:13] Once you find these people, you bring them in. How do you develop them? How do you empower them to continue to grow and learn and contribute back to the company?
Speaker 5 [00:13:22] I think it starts with giving permission. It’s about telling everyone who’s joining you’re going to fail and what does it mean to fail? And it’s actually OK to as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice or over and over again, it actually then allows for learning and growth. And so we talk a lot about these mental models early on. We educate a lot about them, and we give permission to do these key things, such as experiment, fail, grow. It’s OK to say you were wrong yesterday and you’re right today to change your mind. And we create a permission, but a psychological safety around that to say, OK, this is going to happen in the environment. And more importantly than just saying it actually is the fact that we do this so many people and so many companies can say it and onboarding. They actually, I think too often lean too far to aspirational like values, culture, values or beliefs. And then after they say that, you walk into them real life of a company and it all falls short because no one’s actually living it. So on morning, we talk a lot about it. We give permission. But then once you’re in the Itoh Shopify, we do things such as Happy Days and we’ve had numerous hack day projects become like critical builds of Shopify. And the cool part about it is, had we not created this space for experimentation, for anyone to come up with the best solution, we would have never had these. And so you need to create opportunities for everyone to raise their hand and say, I have this great idea and not just shut it down right away.
Speaker 1 [00:14:53] Brittny, you’ve been at Shopify eleven years and hard to imagine back then it only had a staff of twenty people. You’ve witnessed explosive growth. I’d love to know more about how you’ve been able to maintain the startup mindset and culture and not get too comfortable or complacent.
Speaker 5 [00:15:10] Yeah, I mean, and so my story is unique. I’ve been on the exact team for about five years now in this role, but I have done many other things and actually led to. All the way through, and so the reason why I highlight that is not like to talk with the title. It’s actually the fact that I was the most unlikely, unorthodox person that should have been in that role. And one of the things that was said to me was like, your lack of doing that means we’re going to solve in a new way. And I think that’s a key to creativity and unorthodox is to challenge the status quo. And don’t get me wrong, I’m still surrounding myself with people that have done it. I like seek advice. I have a great network of people and amazing mentors. But I think that that naive ness at time or the lack of the scar tissue or the experience actually drives a new solution that maybe wasn’t possible. And I think that in the company by zoom it out for me, the fact that we have the growth mindset, we hire for people that are able to learn, we don’t just hire people that can do the job today, allows for more growth opportunities and allows for us to take chances on high potential people, which also drives new solutions and thinking outside the box. And so I always say we hire teachers and students. Each person is a teacher and a student, but it’s bringing in the right new teachers and the right students that can advocate and challenge each other. The best thing about Shopify hands down is the people who you work with, how much they’re going to challenge you, how much you will learn from each other and drive yourself and everyone else around you further as a result of it.
Speaker 2 [00:16:43] My last question for you, Brittney, if I can ask you to zoom out even further, which countries would you consider to be the most creative in the world and where does Canada stand among them?
Speaker 5 [00:16:53] Oh, that’s such an interesting question. I think each country has its assets to what would drive towards creativity. And I guess I’ve seen this firsthand with the founder, Tobi being German. He brings a lot of the German culture, such as direct feedback, challenging opinions right off the bat. And I have a very Canadian culture, which is like I like to give a lot of praise and then speak in the the criticism. And so there’s I mean, these are obviously stereotypes. So like take this with caution. But I think Canada has all the potential in the world and I think a lot of great things are going to come from it. And I think it’s about getting just more and more cultures and backgrounds into that because we are very diverse. So I think it’s all about inclusion of bringing more and more together.
Speaker 2 [00:17:40] What an uplifting note for us to end this conversation on Britney. Thank you so much for your time today and for joining disrupters.
Speaker 5 [00:17:47] Really appreciate it.
Speaker 2 [00:17:49] We should mention shortly after we recorded this interview, Britney announced she’s moving on from Shopify. But that doesn’t diminish what she told us about culture and diversity as a fuel for creativity. And it’s no coincidence Canada’s cultural mosaic is also part of the origin story for the next company. We’re going to talk about
Speaker 1 [00:18:07] as if it needs any introduction. Lululemon is a world famous athletic apparel and wellness brand. But, you know, it started out as a part time yoga studio in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood to this day. The company calls itself yoga inspired.
Speaker 2 [00:18:24] But where does creativity come into play and how is it fostered? To find out. We sat down with Tom Waller, Lululemon, senior vice president for Advanced Innovation and chief science officer. Tom, welcome to disruptors.
Speaker 3 [00:18:38] Thank you. It’s really a great pleasure to be here.
Speaker 2 [00:18:40] So Lululemon is a fitness and it’s a wellness company, but we’re talking about creativity today. So I’m curious, how would you define creativity within the context of what you do?
Speaker 3 [00:18:51] Well, creativity always needs an input into my job and within the company that I work for. What we have focused on is ensuring that we have a space, a platform that allows us to consider that we’re not done yet. I’ve brought a multidisciplinary scientific focus, which we call the science of field. And the science field physiologist becomes now a jumping off point for every category, product service experience that we might want to create. We think about how can we really engineer the sensory experience and facilitate a new kind of human connection? And can we do that in such a way that we can predict a successful outcome? And so maybe that, as you might, a set of constraints on it and it seems to accelerate creativity. It’s not creativity, craft, creativity, sake, it’s creativity around a really specific set of problems that we think we’re uniquely qualified to solve.
Speaker 2 [00:19:48] I’m very interested in that experiential aspect that you mentioned, and I’m hoping you can walk us through that journey because it sounds like creativity was woven into the DNA of the company from the very beginning. But how did that play out?
Speaker 3 [00:20:03] Yeah, I mean, I was full disclosure, I was absolutely attracted to Lululemon because of one very specific thing, which was the innovation was everywhere. It didn’t feel like it was something that they needed to add. It was something that they needed to amplify. They had a tolerance for ambiguity that was just. Palpably different. Very, very unique, and so the opportunity that I saw was to create a new way of extracting that innovation or that innovative capability. The important thing that we had to do was to not get too good at being Lululemon, to not get stuck in that identity that others would start to describe. And we would like it when when we got the kind of offers of recognition that we were having an impact in the world. And and as we got defined by observers and third parties, whether that’s Wall Street or media, it was important that we didn’t start to believe that that hype, that what was really important, it was that we believed in our vision, which was, you know, our impact on on just wellbeing as a holistic access point for all people deserve.
Speaker 1 [00:21:11] I want to go back to something you said about the science of feel. I love the emphasis on feel. And I think it’s a concept that resonates with us so much more now thanks to the pandemic when we don’t have to dress up and go out to the office. In your experience, Tom, what role do crises like Colvard play in fueling creativity?
Speaker 3 [00:21:32] These are big questions. A lot of a lot of incredible things are forged on the crisis. A lot of amazing inventions formed on the crisis. So I think that crisis is one of the greatest opportunities to apply creativity. I think that not all of us have necessarily have the gift of space this last year. I think so many of us have had to focus on security of all of our livelihoods of businesses. So, yeah, I mean, I take great pride in the in the reality that I have been able to spend time looking at this situation and acknowledging that this is a time to be creative, because those of us that create now really do have a different level of influence in the future that unfolds. I think the fact that it’s been a health crisis is really interesting because we’ve all had a brush with mortality. We’ve all really assessed our values and what our daily lives look like because they’ve got a little bit smaller. So the adjacencies of those things and the experiences that we have are now not separated by travel or trips or massively different context of the different spaces and places that we choose to visit. So we’re able to really scrutinize what matters.
Speaker 2 [00:22:59] So coming out of the pandemic, looking at the years and decades ahead, how do other companies and business leaders need to think about creativity? What would your advice to them be?
Speaker 3 [00:23:09] I think the most important thing is to be able to back off a little bit from the business model and and look a little harder at the purpose of the business model encourages us not to change the purpose, encourages us to change. So for any company looking at themselves, it’s being able to tease out what are the primary assets that that could be applied in in in more ways than the business model might suggest. Whenever we start anything new, it’s making sure that we don’t compare it to something that’s mature. Let’s say if we wanted to start a new category, we’re looking for a rate of change in that category. We need to compare that to the same time that an equivalent category was also at that stage. And so we compare rate of change to rate of change, not rate of change to maturity. And I think it’s one of the difficult things of being an innovator or taking that creative step is the comparisons. And if comparison is so often the thief of joy, the challenge that we face is that we are likely to squash new, small things in favor of the big safe things. But it’s the new, small, risky stuff that is an exploration of maybe a reapplying the assets in a new way that will probably, probably is the next. So you just got to measure it differently. There’s no one size fits all. Apparently there’s no silver bullet or magic formula. Every company has its beginnings. There is the beginnings of a lot of the really valuable things to mine and understand and recontextualize, which means that every company has a different set of metrics that they should look at as to how they know how to grow into new potential successes.
Speaker 2 [00:24:52] Tom, I have one last big question to ask. In your opinion, what are the most creative countries in the world and where do you think Canada ranks among them?
Speaker 3 [00:25:02] I think that Canada has a history of really impressive creativity. I came here not just because of Lululemon, because I could I could see something in Canada, I could see something in it its potential as a place to be creative, a place to innovate. So I think Canada ranks. Very high in potential, and wouldn’t it be a shame if we don’t fulfill that?
Speaker 1 [00:25:35] Our next guest is from what might just be the biggest creative industry of all, as we learned during our episode about EA Sports back in January, the video game sector has now eclipsed the movie and music businesses combined,
Speaker 2 [00:25:50] as Julianne Laferriere is the producer of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at Ubisoft Montreal. It’s the latest title in a blockbuster franchise that spans centuries of civilization, weaving together history, myth, music and more. We asked him how he views the daunting task of managing an entire team of creatives.
Speaker 3 [00:26:12] I think conductor is a good metaphor for another one I really like is the skipper of a boat, because when you’re on a boat, you know, you’re a crew, you know your boat, you know where you’re heading, you know, hopefully. But you never control the weather. You don’t control the waves. You don’t control the wind. So there’s a lot of improvization, you know, there’s a lot of things that you have to react to the environment that you’re in. And this is what a game producer has to do. You know, you’re wandering in the great unknown because there’s a lot of things that you don’t know when you’re you’re starting your journey and you have to be quick on your feet to react and also, you know, inspire your team to reach this fabled shores that you’re all aiming for. You have to hope for the best and plan for the worst. You have to be and a risk management mindset of what can go wrong. And if it goes wrong, what’s what’s mine, what’s my strategy? What’s my game plan? You know, the road ahead is not charted. So you have to chart that road by, you know, trial and error, trying some things, making mistakes, and then, you know, learning from those mistakes and moving forward. And that’s that’s for me, that’s what’s important because it is pure creativity.
Speaker 1 [00:27:27] Remember, at the start of the series, we opened with a clip of Richard Florida calling creativity the skill that matters. Well, that was just one snippet of a much larger conversation. And we’d like to share it with you now because it’s a perfect way to wrap things up.
Speaker 2 [00:27:44] Richard is a noted urban studies theorist, best known for his book The Rise of the Creative Class, published in 2002. So we figured a good place to begin our chat was to ask him how attitudes toward creativity have changed since then.
Speaker 3 [00:27:57] Well, it’s funny. I feel like it’s it’s come full circle. If you look back at the criticism of the book, it was, you know, creativity doesn’t really matter and talent doesn’t really matter. What’s happened is that now, two decades later, all of that has been reversed. Creativity is more valued than ever before. You see it now when you talk to business leaders, you see it now. When you talk to community leaders, it’s the skill that matters. I remember looking at LinkedIn a few years ago, and it was the number one skill you had to have was creativity. And moreover, when you look at how communities compete, people are working from home. And communities around North America in the world are competing for talent. You know, to be honest, I wouldn’t have predicted this. I think if anything, I was hopeful. But yeah, yeah, it seems to have become kind of the norm. What was once the U.S. has now become the norm.
Speaker 1 [00:28:52] One thing I’m wrestling with, Richard, is our need to be together to fuel creativity. The pandemic has disrupted our ability to mingle, and mingling is kind of a jet fuel for creativity. How do you square the isolation that we’ve all experienced and maybe getting used to with the need to commingle to be creative?
Speaker 3 [00:29:13] What’s interesting, John, is in a nearly 40 year career as an academic, not once have I ever encountered the role of pandemics or infectious disease in abating the tide of urbanization. If you look back at history and certainly the past couple of centuries, the arc of urbanization has just gone straight upward. That tells me something that the force of people mingling, the force of density, the force of people forging, community clustering because clustering and creativity, these two things go together. And they’re not just about arts and culture and bohemianism. They are the basic motor force of economic growth. That force has powered human societies advance and culture in innovation and economics for all of time. Cities will survive. They will be fine. Even New York City, which was proclaimed dead back in March, is now seeing record sales of condominiums. Again, what I think is going to happen is that instead of going to an office and plugging your laptop into a cubicle, that the city or neighborhood will become more of what the office used to be. So your day at the office will be more like maybe you go two times a week, but it’ll be more like a local business trip where instead of just going and sitting in an office space, you’ll go to meetings, you’ll meet with colleagues to grab a coffee with friends. So I actually think this sense of commingling in getting together and density and social interaction will become more important, not let we spending less time in an office isolated and more time in our communities, our business community, our innovation communities, our ecosystems, mingling and getting together and getting stuff done.
Speaker 2 [00:30:49] Working remotely does bring challenges, as most of us have learned over the past year. Do you see the quality of creativity being reduced as a result of our increasingly virtual world? And how do companies and communities ensure that creativity stays in the spotlight in the future?
Speaker 3 [00:31:06] Well, I think for these community is really the big question is how do you build remote work ecosystems? It’s something I’m working on in my consulting. And I think what we’re looking at is not a place where remote workers all work isolated in their homes. I think we’re talking about new kinds of communities, still the third places in coffee shops and coworking spaces where remote workers mix and mingle. Going back to the 1920s after the Spanish flu, the emergence of Greenwich Village as an artistic and creative center occurred after the Spanish flu because creative Laucke there for this kind of density. I think now we’re finding that you can create a kind of analog to that in smaller communities. I certainly see it when I travel, when I travel before the pandemic. Creatives need a combination of interaction and isolation. This is why creative people like to be there, not extroverts. They don’t need human contact to be stimulated. Creative people are high in introversion. They need a lot of isolation. They did a lot of crime alone. They need a lot of time without interruption and disruption. But at certain times they want energy. They want other human energy. They want somebody to bounce an idea. If they want to go get a coffee, they want to go to a bike to for a bike ride or walk into Rabin to recharge their energy. So there’s a lot of stimulation creative people get for the natural environment. And if you tell them to report to the office and strap on a suit, they’re going to say. We’re going to go to a place that and I think what I’m seeing among high performance organization and high tech companies in the state’s leading edge companies here saying we’re going to allow people to work remotely who want to. And at the same time, we’re going to build spectacular office facilities. I mean, the Office of the Future, I’ve been working on this. You know, wellness space is meditation spaces, outdoor spaces to me, you know, coworking spaces and conference spaces, the likes of which we haven’t seen. I think the office becomes a perk as well and quite experiential, no longer a place just to work. I think this is the big change. The big change in the pandemic is the way people work. And they’re not going to back this old way, this old industrial age idea that people go to an office at night and come back and five is over for those who have the privilege, the skill and the privilege and the talent to demand that, that’s what we’ve got to really start to think about.
Speaker 1 [00:33:20] Well, we have no shortage of things to think about after that incredible flood of insights that have been shared with us during these conversations. Our thanks to Richard Florida and all our guests for joining us on this deep dove into creativity. Teresa, I wonder what stands out for you the most from everything we’ve heard?
Speaker 2 [00:33:39] John, I loved our conversation with Shopify as Brittany Forsyth. The notion of creativity will abound. If you have the right people in place, people who are able to learn, not just people who can do the job today and people who are able to challenge each other and learn from each other and drive each other for. That was really inspiring. What about you?
Speaker 1 [00:34:01] I’m taking a lot of notes from the educators we heard from. You think of shared in college, celebrated globally for all it’s done over the decades with animation. But you find the same creative juices at play in all of its programs, from phys ed to skilled trades, where creativity really is the jet fuel of skills for the years ahead.
Speaker 2 [00:34:22] Yeah, it’s so interesting to see the journey of creativity from the classroom to the workplace. And I want to touch a little bit on our conversation with Tom Waller from Lululemon, who hones in on the strategic elements of creativity, which is not for creativity sake, but for the set of problems that you’re trying to solve that a company or a group of people are uniquely qualified to solve. And that’s centering around the problem and understanding what the objective you have in mind is. Also reminds me of our conversation last time with a jackal from the Creative Destruction Lab.
Speaker 1 [00:34:59] Yeah, we heard pretty much from every guest that creativity is a team sport, if you will. You need to bring together a lot of people and diverse groups of people if you want to really be creative in this kind of world and this kind of economy. And it’s going to be even more challenging. But maybe in other ways it will take off in the years ahead when we’re all going to explore different ways of working with hybrid models, where we’ll be working probably a bit remotely and a lot together in different ways in the years ahead. And I was really struck by some of the comments that, Richard, Florida is a great student of creativity and author about creativity, shared with us at the end, going back to the 1920s, the roaring 20s, when communities like Greenwich Village really thrived as people clustered together to take advantage of new technologies. You just think of how radio and television were taking off in the 1920s that fueled a whole new creative age. The 20s, the second roaring 20s can be equally creative, with people still coming together in the Greenwich villages of this century to collaborate to share ideas with diverse groups of people and to challenge each other to solve the epic problems that are right in front of us. We’re going to need a whole lot more creativity in the years ahead. And it was great to hear from such a diversity of Canadian organizations that are ready and set to take on this new creative age.
Speaker 2 [00:36:38] It’s a new era, the soaring twenties. I love it.
Speaker 1 [00:36:41] The soaring 20s that’s yours to retire,
Speaker 2 [00:36:44] consider it officially coined. And John, keep in mind, this podcast is just a companion piece to our much larger research hub on creativity, which will be online at RBC Dotcom Slash Thought Leadership once it launches in early May.
Speaker 1 [00:36:57] It’s an incredible resource and I’m so proud of the team for all the work that’s gone into it. I hope those of you listening to the series find it as valuable as I did and that whatever you’re doing today, that you make it creative. I’m John Stackhouse
Speaker 2 [00:37:10] and I’m trained. Teresa Doe, this is Disruptors and RBC Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us. Bye for now.
Speaker 5 [00:37:23] Disruptors and RBC podcast is created by the RBC Thought Leadership Group and does not constitute a recommendation for any organization, product or service, it’s produced and recorded by Jar Audio for more disruptors, content like or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and visit RBC Dotcom Slash Disrupters.
Jennifer Marron produces "Disruptors, an RBC podcast". Prior to joining RBC, Jennifer spent five years as Community Manager at MaRS Discovery District and cultivated a large network of industry leaders, entrepreneurs and partners to support the Canadian startup ecosystem. Her writing has appeared in The National Post, Financial Post, Techvibes, IT Business, CWTA Magazine and Procter & Gamble’s magazine, Rouge. Follow her on Twitter @J_Marron.
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