Creativity needs a bit of untidiness. Make everything too neat and tidy and there
is no room for experiment. Cram your days too full and it's hard to find time to
think. We all need a bit of slack to give us the space to experiment.
--Charles Handy, The Hungry Spirit
Welcome to The Stream Series, a selection of observations from the WPP Digital
un-conference, Stream. Attended by Arianna Huffington and Roy Sekoff, the
event -- Stream@Cannes -- brought together some of the best minds behind
global brands, technology and media companies as well as start-ups to explore
the ever expanding potential of digital creativity.
Over the next five days, we'll share ideas from stream attendees and speakers.
The thoughts we'll share aren't tidy. But the idea is to open things up -- not to
prescribe but to enlighten. It's also just a beginning. To share your reactions and
further ideas get in touch with the Stream Team or go to the
Stories From the Blue
I'm writing this from the Cote d'Azur where I am attending the Cannes
Lions International Festival of Creativity -- my
annual trek to the French Rivera.
It is staggeringly beautiful here -- the mountains, the sky, the sea, the boats on
the horizon, beautiful sunsets, the clear blue water. Think of those elements
of beauty as thought-assets and add the eleven thousand or so delegates
participating together with the local population, tourists and others and imagine
the stories they combine to tell -- stories forming in our heads and being shared
in conversation, in picture, online, in-person, by phone -- tweeted, blogged, e-
mailed. There's content all around us and for thousands of years it's been shared
in every form of communication imaginable.
At Cannes, at the Festival, the confluence of clients, media large and small, old
and new, content developers, tech entrepreneurs, thought leaders and agency
types are also creating stories. The delegates here are filling the streets,
drinking rosé, eating exquisite food, watching the sunset (and some the sunrise),
attending workshops and seminars, seeing, watching, listening, experiencing
and celebrating the best work in our industry as chosen by their peers. There's
catching up, networking, listening, learning, teaching. And there is sharing
dreams. That is exponentially thousands -- hundreds of thousands, maybe even
millions of stories.
So much amazing history (the story of what's been) lives here and it feels like so
much history is being made (more stories for the future).
Ancient stories endure here. And we are creating new ones every day.
Storytelling is in the air, the ether and the ethos this year at Cannes. And,
strikingly, nowhere was that more evident than at WPP's Stream event, which has come to be an extraordinary global
gathering of innovators, not to mention a great generator of stories itself.
Creativity. Innovation. There has always been a link. So let me be clear
about what I mean. How I define it. Creativity is storytelling, plain and simple.
And innovation is how we drive it through channels.
In recent years, I've often voiced my frustrations about those who don't
understand the difference. Even worse, those who think they're interchangeable.
Imagine if people thousands of years ago thought that the essence of the Bible
was really the parchment paper on which the stories were written.
Listening to the group of innovators talk at Stream today was exhilarating.
And the theme was consistent. Storytelling. Great innovation comes out of
the impulse to tell better stories. Great stories. Captivating stories. Engaging
There was Shane Smith. He and a small group of people took a small punk
magazine from Canada called Vice and have built it into a billion dollar
multi-platform media business that runs the gamut -- an online video destination,
a record label, book publisher, creative services agency.
They weren't thinking about cool technology. Their ambition was to do content
better, to make great stories. And as they evolve, the stories get better, deeper
and as technology evolves the way they share and distribute, those stories get
more interesting and interactive. Their innovations came out of the desire to tell
ever better stories.
Storytelling is also the story of Yoni Bloch, an Israeli with
an eclectic background as a musician, songwriter, Talent Idol judge, high-tech
entrepreneur. His company, Interlude, is all about storytelling. Its interactive
technology creates seamless videos where the viewer gets to help make the
story through endless choices that they make -- what greater acknowledgement
of storytelling than that!
Telling a story is no less important to Joel Lewis, who, with Pete Hellicar, has
created, among other things, a group of applications called Somantics. This app, downloadable for free, by the
way, is designed for people on the autism spectrum. And it uses touch, gesture
and Microsoft's Kinect to give people with autism "voice" and self-expression. This is
innovation that recognizes the deep human need to tell stories. This is incredibly
And the stories didn't end there. Arianna Huffington's story was of courage and
cause; Andy Berndt, the power of failure; Rory Sutherland talked of Heuristics
advertising, while Jonathan Mildenhall spun the tale of planlessness. So much
content, so much pleasure in sharing it. Storytelling creates the social fabric.
One of the joys of coming to Cannes every year has been its expansion of the
definition of creativity, and with it, the mind-blowing changes in technology that
have let us tell richer, better stories.
But this year I'm seeing something truly special. The reclaiming of the core of
our business, telling great stories that engage people. And with it the recognition
that innovation is something larger than technology -- more human, even nobler.
Start with the story. End with the story. I'm reminded of what Lewis Carroll once
said: "No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time."
The easier innovations help us get to the story; the stronger they make the bond,
the more powerful the adventure becomes.