Innovation as Creativity

At the Cannes Lions Creativity Festival this year, Y&R put together a slick little book that featured thought leaders from around the Y&R global network providing their POV on Creativity & Innovation. I was honored to contribute to this book, along with people like Tony Granger, Y&Rs’ Global Chief Creative Officer; Sandy Thompson, our Global Director of Planning; and, John Gerzema, Executive Chairman of BAV Consulting.

Here’s my contribution to the book, in which I argue that creativity and innovation are no longer two separate things, but increasingly connected in novel ways…


Innovation and Creativity Aren’t Just Inextricably Linked, They Are Part Of The Same Whole

If you think about it at all, you probably think of innovation and creativity as two distinct things. Innovation happens in the lab, creativity in the studio. Innovation is the domain of the business, creativity of the artist.

Now, perhaps you could argue that creativity has been innovative. Think of Picasso, or Borges. But it’s not so easy to think of innovation as being creative. Innovation makes things better (sliced bread) or more efficient (the assembly line) or better and more efficient (the Snuggie), but rarely has innovation been creative.

The Listening Machine – Innovation as Creativity

Or at least it wasn’t. But something has changed. Innovation has become sexy. Maybe we have Steve Jobs to thank for this. Apple makes products that not only deliver industry-leading innovation, but do so with a design aesthetic worthy of a museum.  It’s no coincidence that innovation has undergone a redefinition at the same time as the rise of design over the last decade or so.  The ascendency of digital culture, the removal of barriers to entry and a networked world mean that the traditional roles of innovators and creators have blended and merged.

Increasingly we live in world not of innovation and creativity, but rather innovation as creativity.  Take a look at Kickstarter. It’s filled with technological wizardry masquerading as art. Or is that art, with a hearty engineering DNA?  Either way, it’s clear that we’ve entered a new era. An era where “Creative Technologist” is an aspirational job title in the ad industry.

Nowhere is this paradigm shift more evident than in the emergence of the New Aesthetic, as preached by James Bridle: The New Aesthetic is not a movement, it is not a thing which can be done. It is a series of artefacts of the heterogeneous network, which recognises differences, the gaps in our overlapping but distant realities.” In short, the New Aesthetic is being created by our manipulation of and reaction to digital technology as a driving force in contemporary culture. From Bit Torrent to bots, technological innovation is informing a new creative grammar that is being picked up by everyone from youth subcultures to Madison Avenue. The brilliant, and often beautiful, hacks of the Xbox Kinect system eloquently demonstrate our headlong rush towards this New Aesthetic. Projects like The Listening Machine or Cosmic Quilt soon will be commonplace rather than aberrations.

So, who wins in this new world, the creative innovators or the innovative creators? Is it enough to be creative without the capacity to design and deliver a tangible product? Is there still a market for solutions that don’t inspire? How will traditional creative thrive in a world where brand and product purchasing choices are made by artificially intelligent agents rather than humans? That will call for solutions that rely just as heavily on technological innovation as they do on creative breakthroughs.

We’re already seeing that the people, agencies and brands that understand the intimate relationship between innovation and creativity are the ones that will thrive in the marketplace. Those that can’t adapt and apply the new rules will be left on the shore, looking on as the vanguard sail off to new lands.


Kickstarter Project: MAP 005 CHERNOBYL, a publication.

If you’ve been following Y&R New York’s Kickstarter Program, you know there has been a focus on the real, the tangible, as opposed to the fully digital. This week’s entry is no exception. MAP (Manual of Architectural Possibilities) is the brainchild of architect David A. Garcia, who runs David Garcia Studio with base in Copenhagen and New York . Find out more about MAP here.

So many of the educational challenges in this country can be solved through design. MAP is a great example of this. As described on the project’s Kickstarter page:

MAP (Manual of Architectural Possibilities) is a non profit publication aiming to merge the fields of science and research on one hand, and architectural design on the other, to encourage discussion through design. The publication exemplifies this approach via its format. MAP presents itself as an A1, folded in the shape of traditional maps. Research and data are shown in one page, and architectural projects on the back.

MAP - Floods

MAP - Floods

Culturally, we are moving in the direction of visuals as a means of communication. Data Viz, Infographics, video, these are the language of the New Aesthetic.