Note from the Future – All industries are Creative.
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries economies around the world once again legitimately welcomed some of humanities most long-standing professions into the economy. Creative and cultural industries where embraced and labelled in a way that allowed them to be measured economically. Some of this was due to new technologies mediating creativity, making it easier for them to be commoditised and some, such as art and craft, had always been economic contributors, but through industrialisation had somehow lost their legitimacy in the economy. This loss of legitimacy was partly due to the difficulty in fitting one-off objects into the new industrial framework, and partly due to art theorists who felt that this type of creative work should not be included in the economy. The new terminology of creative/cultural industries allowed a number of disparate economic activities to be linked through the commonality of leveraging intrinsically motivated creativity for economic outcomes.
The problem with the term creative industries though, is that many other economic activities rely on creativity. For example, science and technology development require as much creativity and imagination, as technical knowledge and scientific method. The way the term creative industries have commonly been used has missed this larger context. The other dimension missed was that over the same period as we were embracing creative and cultural industries, we were moving from businesses that rely on process to ones that rely on creativity. A business model that relies on process is the Model T Ford. An employee unthinkingly tightens the same bolt a thousand times a day and by breaking down the task across hundreds of unthinking employees you get a product, but anyone who has tried to achieve something via a call centre knows that in a more complex environment this logic breaks down.
In welcoming the creative and cultural industries into the economy we also missed the point of their real value. It was a case of here is the economy, this is how it works, now be creative in it. Instead, we need to look at how and where the creative process flourishes and mold business processes to suit. This is a big problem, in the world of the tech start up there are a significant number of creative technology solutions to genuine problems, but the most creative part is developing a business model that will actually make them finically possible, or, to put it another way, adapting business processes to ensure the success of creativity. We continually try and fit our creative responses to problems into Model T business processes and get surprised when whole industries fail, or get taken over by computer companies. This is more than just a business problem, dire need in green tech and social services require business to be able to creatively respond if our societies are to have a viable future.
So we need to think of creative industries differently, we need to think of how we change business to embrace creative processes. As an example, the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) worked with the Bionic Ear Institute and artist Robin Fox to create musical works for people with a Cochlear implants. Now I don’t think most people would see Cochlear as a part of the creative/cultural industries, but if business innovation is about applying technologies, or new process, to resolve problems for people, then many of our business problems are cultural.
Making a robot is a technical problem; living with one is a cultural problem.
So we can define creative industries as other cities do, or we can move it to another level and ask “how do we make all industries creative?” That’s a very different question and one that is seldom asked.
Gavin Artz, CEO Australian Network for Art and Technology