Saturday, April 18, 2009

2009: The European Year of Creativity & Innovation

"The European Year of Creativity and Innovation aims to raise awareness of the importance of creativity and innovation for personal, social and economic development; to disseminate good practices; to stimulate education and research, and to promote policy debate on related issues. During the year there are many seminars held related to the topic at the European Parliament."

Finntastico got the chance to take part in one such seminar at the EU Parliament in Brussels. The seminar, Imagine. Create. Innovate. was organized by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Hannu Takkula, Finland and Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Germany.

Among the the speakers were Tuula Teeri, president of the new Aalto University, Charles Hampden-Turner, a renowned scholar and consultant on culture, creativity and innovation as well as the author of the best-selling book Riding the Waves of Culture, Vesa Kangaslahti, Assistant Professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and Liisa Välikangas, Professor of Innovation Management at Helsinki School of Economics.

Q: How many blondes does it take
to change a light bulb?

The afternoon seminar was extremely stimulating as the title of the seminar already promised. Many ideas and thoughts were floated about ranging from how humour can be used to stimulate creativity to the way the current economic crisis should be seen as an opportunity to innovate.

According to Liisa Välikangas, who focused on discussing the relationship between humour and creativity, the best metric of innovation was whether "you laugh together". She went on to point out how British Airways was a company that took its humour particularly seriously, referring to the appointment of Paul Birch as a "Corporate Jester".

The logic for the argument, she went on to proclaim, was that the best way to change the mindset and encourage some lateral thinking was to simply "crack a joke". Laughter takes us by surprise and that's when innovative breakthroughs can be achieved.

The Finns might be onto something.
But no, it's not Nokia this time...

Cross-functional teams have long featured in the academic discourse on creativity. But as Hampden-Turner pointed out, universities have traditionally done the very opposite: different fields of knowledge have been divided into different departments.

Tuula Teeri gave an example of a venture that breaks the mould—the new Finnish Aalto University. The University, named after the internationally renowned architect-turned-businessman Alvar Aalto, is a merger between the Helsinki School of Economics, the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Helsinki University of Technology.

Currently branded as the University ”where the science and art meet technology and business”, Aalto University is one of its kind and definately worth checking out in case you're in the search for a Uni where to do that Masters you've long been thinking about.

“It is not the strongest of species
that survives, nor the most intelligent,
but the most responsive to change”

Charles Darwin

While debating the many ways we can become more creative, many of the presenters also noted how factors out of everyone's control often stimulate innovation: people get creative when they have no alternative.

By no surprise, the prevalent economic crisis often featured in the seminar. Hampden-Turner and Kangaslahti mentioned the example of the US car industry and how it is under pressure to innovate for the first time in many decades.

Those were the highlights of what was a very fruitful seminar. If only the MEP's had time to reflect and sit down for more than 15 minutes at a time...

A slide from Hampden-Turner's and Kangaslahti's presentation

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