Thursday, July 07, 2011

Creatives Need To Re-Join The Pursuit of Innovation!

I wasn’t surprised by the announcement that Durham Arts Council’s Centerfest is taking a year off to be “reinvented.”  The need was evident years ago to volunteers and attendees as knock-offs in other communities became so ubiquitous.

So why has reinvention been delayed?  The ever insightful Bob Lefsetz may have put his finger on part of the problem when he lamented last week about why it seems that “every business is in a mad dash to innovate except for the creative industries…”Capture

Durham is a creative community but that doesn’t mean that every organization is guaranteed to have creative leadership or a creative organizational culture.

Inertia is a factor.  Many organizations in the creative industries, here and across the land and both for-profit and non-profit, appear to be in dire need of reinvention, not just the events they produce, as evidenced by the fact that concerts are aging out and the apparent success of so many venues is betrayed by the cannibalization of others.

Failure by many communities to understand the law of “supply and demand” is another factor.  Far too few evolve and nurture indigenous festival concepts that can add to the distinctiveness of a community.  Far too many just mimic or poach from other communities instead.

But there always seems to be a few people in every community, including Durham, who take festivals for granted or fail to grasp that the “churn” so common in development is toxic to the ecology of events.  These folks relentlessly promote the need for more and more events with little concern for how fragile and dependent the supply of events is on not just audience but underwriting and volunteers.

These folks also grossly underestimate the value of events that are distinct to a community vs. those that merely make it similar to hundreds of others.

Clearly a hiatus for Centerfest would have been timely several years ago when it was displaced from its original, longtime location by the updating of the roadways in the City Center District of Downtown Durham.

And it will not be the last to need reinvention.  I completely agree with Lefsetz that in general creative industries must rediscover their innovative roots or risk stagnation.

However, breathing true creativity and innovation into an event or an organization doesn’t just happen with a brainstorming session or by adding it to a mission statement or purpose or by putting someone on a governing board or even by involving a handful of other community organizations.  To occur it must be a core value embedded in the very DNA of the organization from the top down.

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