July 7, 2017
What is the Creative Network?
In the virtual world, innovation knows no bounds. Anyone can access tools that showcase their ability to delight, provoke, build, sell, seduce, convey, connect, collaborate, or seek out “likes.” The democratization of technology has spawned a renaissance of self-expression. Every day, people upload about 300,000 videos to YouTube, share 95 million photos and videos on Instagram, and add more 20,000 songs to their playlists on Spotify. And yet having a studio-quality camera on your iPhone doesn’t make you a Hollywood producer.
Disruptive creativity is a team sport. It requires a physical space to spark idea generation through mingling and mash-ups. Traditional office space doesn’t work. Instead of cubicles and coffee machines, the creative network thrives in an intellectual playground filled with learning labs, studios, and kitchens. It draws energy from physical spaces that bring people together, encouraging collaboration and ideas-sharing. Like its members, the workspace must be seamlessly integrated with cyberspace and adaptive to its users. In short, it mirrors the mindset of a new creative class.
To find members of this creative network, look around. They’re everywhere. One may be a father in Perth who uploads videos of his toddler’s tea parties; another, a Nairobi chef showcasing different ways to make ugali. The teen posting haunting images of abandoned toys on Instagram and Snapchat is part of the fold. So, too, is the Spotify user who delights in curating mood-altering playlists, as well as the one who takes pride in coming up with wacky titles. The creative network embraces Twitter users who craft each tweet like it’s a haiku, and those whose tweets tumble out as stream-of-consciousness prose.
It’s not enough to use digital tools to create. The creative network is more about mindset. That’s why it’s dominated by millennials, who’ve grown up using platforms to connect and express themselves. For this digital generation, the physical world has long been a canvas for inspiration and collaboration. They demand workspace that enables them to share and flow freely between work and play; space that is as connected and always-on as they are. When a Boston team is collaborating with engineers in Bangalore at night, they want sleep pods to grab a power nap during the day. Smart boards and eco-friendly features are expected. There’s little time for hierarchy in a space where contributions are transparent and success is shared. The corner office no longer connotes success, but wasted space.
The creative network is multi-directional and multi-dimensional – whether it’s dealing with things, people, brands, or experiences. It requires workplace typologies that are less focused on one space than on a series of spaces that can span time zones, platforms, and projects. As with the evolving mixed-use typologies, the work zone reflects how these workers connect, communicate, and create.
While a virtual hub can exist anywhere or everywhere, a physical hub is bound by geography. It’s most likely to thrive in urban centres, close to talent, services, culture attractions, and stimulating projects. In the creative network, talent is not a fixed asset to be developed but a transitory group that must be wooed. Many aspire to be global nomads, renting where it’s convenient to be rather than owning one place called home.
“Home” may be an income generator that’s reserved mainly for guests, thanks to Airbnb, while a car may spend most of its time driving others under the banner of Uber. For natives of the sharing economy, who are used to leasing gowns from Rent the Runway and office space from groups like WeWork, possessions come second to experiences. They live in an era where entrepreneurialism is expected and career is something you create. What matters is meeting the right people in the right space and time. Such serendipity is how work now comes together, from entrepreneurial ventures to freelance gigs.
With data and instant access to each other’s online dossiers, the challenge isn’t knowing who to meet. It’s creating new spatial typologies that can transform an encounter into an opportunity for meaningful collaboration. In the virtual network, trust becomes a precious commodity. Like a Hollywood studio, creative talent will gravitate towards cohesive communities of interest. The emotional connection comes first. For humans of every era, those connections are strongest when they start face-to-face.