A heckuva lot.
Given my career, my past, my current job, my personality, and my inbred passion for the subject, that's nothing out of the ordinary. But what's taking my thinking to a new level is a presentation I have to give in May at the second annual C2-MTL conference (see the ad above, one which greeted me at the airport baggage claim after my flight from Vail).
While I'll get into more details here in upcoming weeks, my appearance amongst heavyweights like Sir Richard Branson, design God Phillippe Starck and gamechangers like TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie and Whole Foods pioneer John Mackey, is based on somewhat of an audacious (some may say foolhardy) dare.
Rather than merely "speak" at a creative conference, what I proposed to organizers was to go one step further and actually "create" something...in this case, a fully improvised dissertation on creativity based on user-generated photos I will have never seen until they are flashed on the screen behind me on stage. Without attempting something this audacious, without eliminating the middle ground between sink or swim, there's no way I would be able to compete for attention against the A-listers who dwarf me in importance and buzz level.
So for a few blissful hours every weekend, I gorge myself on creativity...because the only way to be able to improvise on a subject is to be submersed in it.
During this week's cerebral swim, I stumbled across a statistic about Atlanta's Oxford Industries, the parent company of fashion brands like Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman. The telltale stat showed that the 13 of its stores that have taken the risk of integrating a pricey in-house restaurant among its pricey clothing generate two-and-a-half times the sales per square foot of its stores sans food. That's a huge win.
Restaurants in stores may not be new (as a toddler, I remember hitting the lunch counter with my mom in Woolworth's countless times), but the seemingly disparate mash-up of haute-ish cuisine and high-end apparel is. Hence this week's learning:
make a right.
Creativity Math can be likened to algebra, where a negative number multiplied by a negative number equals a positive number. Going for the obvious never produces something eye-popping or worth talking about. Mixing chocolate and nuts doesn't; mixing chocolate and bacon does (or at least it used to, when it WAS uncommon).
Which brings me to a pair of shoes I bought recently in Chicago. Conservative grey suede Oxfords...with SKY BLUE shoelaces (as well as a RED pair for different moods, or if I want to mix it up even further, a one blue/one red combo). Two VERY wrongs...but a very cool, "look at me" right. This incongruent shoelace concept may have been born on the streets with hip-hop kids and their collector Nikes, but now, it has moved to the office...well, at least the resto/stores of Ben Sherman and co.
Taking this creative thought (pardon the pun) one step further, I suspect that sooner than later, shoes themselves will come in mis-matched pairs; in other words, I'll have one grey suede Oxford, and one navy blue. Already the Camper shoe company offsets its pairs ever-so-subtly; the day is fast approaching when this incongruity will become more blatant...perhaps when we'll team up a grey Oxford on the left foot with an Adidas sneaker on the right.
This counter-intuitive Creativity Math may be risky, but it's vital.
In order to REALLY move the creative needle in this day and age, you've got to do something wrong.