Social innovation, re-thinking your enterprise model holistically for the digital age, mobilizing the creativity of women. There were lots of great themes at the Flanders DC Creativity Forum on 21 October. So why do I keep coming back to two questions? Does playing computer games unleash our inner super-hero? Or is too much time in front of computer screens transforming all of us into infantile sensation seekers?
Good but predictable
I think it’s all down to emotion and story-telling. Ingrid Lieten, the Flemish Minister for Innovation and Randi Zuckerburg (Facebook’s Director of Market Development) who opened the proceedings said everything you might expect. Ingrid: women think differently; we need more women in innovation. Randi: Facebook is fantastic; it’s changing the world.
It just wasn’t especially engaging. I sat in the audience wondering whether it had been worth climbing over a wall into a scruffy, windswept car park on an abandoned dockside for this. (Dear organizers, the inside of the venue was fine, but the location…)
So let’s have fun!
Then on came Jane McGonigal, a gaming specialist and “futurist”. Now, Jane came with a great story and surprising statistics.
Did you know that people who have a cool-looking avatar actually feel more self-confident in real-life for 24 hours after playing as their avatar for just 30 minutes?
Or that by adding gaming elements to its Evoke website, the World Bank Institute turned a worthy project for young people in Africa into an inspiring activity that’s launched youngsters into business?
And Jane showed some wonderful pictures of gamers’ faces! If you know a gamer, you’ll have seen those expressions. Just thinking about them made me smile for the rest of the day. As for Jane’s argument that gaming can save the world, well my rational side is not so convinced, but she made me want to believe.
But there’s a catch…
Later, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield burst my bubble by warning us – in a rather fun way – that too much online sensation, fleeting high-impact images and short bursts of information could be affecting our brains.
It’s not just that we’ll all have shorter attention spans. It seems a life behind a computer screen bombarded with the kind of rapid sensory inputs such as games deliver could limit development of the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain needed for cognitive reflection. Without it, we remain childish, impulsive risk-takers. And when we try to interact with people in person (rather than on Facebook and the like), we’ll find our skills in establishing eye contact and interpreting body language have withered away.
Maybe trying to reconcile these conflicting takes on life in the digital world will make me more creative. In any case, the day provided a lot of food for thought.
Smart thinking and powerful storytelling
Besides the fun and games, Diane Nijs, of the Imagineering Academy in the Netherlands, gave a thoughtful presentation on why companies need to fundamentally re-think their whole enterprise model in the digital age. She described the change from creating value through exchange to value creation through participation, and why that means a lot more than just adding a website.
However, out of all the speakers, Jeanne Devos left the biggest emotional impression on me – and I think a lot of others too. Speaking without notes or slides, this elderly Belgian nun told a remarkable story of collective efforts to improve the lives of domestic workers in India. Her simple passion gained a standing ovation.
Here was a powerful story, inspiringly told. Jeanne’s call to be creative in fighting injustice should motivate us all.
You can find out more on the Flanders DC website.