to inspire

All cconomy can be creative

We live in perhaps the most creative and serious moment in human history.

We live in an “era of abundance, but still carry the mentality of scarcity”. We are able to acknowledge the complexity of the world and also have the tools, the power and the desire to handle it.

This complex world is born out of unprecedented connectivity, growing information flow, diversity coupled with the prospect of unity, and a chaos that can lead us to disintegration or to the discovery of patterns that we could not see before.

We hurry.

We must hurry to preserve the planet, hurry to avoid further wars, rush to find conditions for the expression of individual power at work, leaving aside the terrible paradigm of pain as something that elevates the human being. We want to carry a certain smile behind what we do, not denying  pain, but knowing that pain is a state that can pass through us like the water from a river that knows its own destiny.

Love and pain, power and collaboration, we have no more time for plain oppositions,we want mixtures. We hurry.

Through the computer screen we seek good encounters. We desire to touch those who share the same vibe: it’s possible to love life without being too innocent.We can use all the technical, scientific and cognitive conquers in composition with the joyful, urgent and practical dictates of the so said Generation Y. In Y we have choices.

The desire of these new combinations will then inhabiting projects: striking actions, which pervade the world based on open listening and the contemplation of complex maps. Old ways don´t disappear by collapse, but because they become obsolete.

Wherever you are and whom you can talk to, you´ll hear the same story. We want a life that has meaning. Hidden under the tables in business meetings, stretched out on bar counters and on the drawings made by coaches and pupils, lies a project perspective that will enable the emergence of a new world. It is to these projects that we want to devote our energies.

We hurry. There never was so much inspiration and so many “loose” people in search of good agency that helps them to exert their power. There has never been so much pressure to melt together our knowledge, catalyzing authorless innovations that are born in “between”, born in relationships, but with collective authority and resources. Virtual and action collapse.

Innovation can then seem a magic word, a contemporary holy grail that everyone wants, but nobody knows where it is. It is so because innovation is the possibility that inhabits the present, it is the Zeitgeist, is all over the place for those who have eyes to see, ears to listen and desire to perform. To innovate is to make relevant changes to and from the networks we inhabit. It is a way of living in which an expanded and elusive present challenges us to act with consistency and to amplify the generation of value. Where cities, schools and organizations need an accurate acupuncture for small points of light to gain strength and overshadow what consumes us (and what we consume).

We live up to what happens to us, if we’re up to the present events.

All economy can be creative.

(this post was based on the recent events of CICI 2011, international conference of innovative cities, and The Network Society and the Creative Economy Seminar, sponsored by VIVO- in Curitiba and São Paulo respectively; plus infinite readings, links and posts that invade my life every day. It is possibly the most appreciative thing I´ve ever written.)

What it feels like to be brazilian in 2011- a view from São Paulo

Here I am. The “studio like” heavy rain hits the window of my apartment, in São Paulo, from where I can see one of the golden towers of Paulista Avenue. I love to watch the rain.

São Paulo is the big financial Center of Brazil, and suffers from a double  trouble: it  accumulates the paradoxes of the country, but in many aspects can be closer to New York than to Bahia. São Paulo is like an island.

Surrounded by two extremely important Rivers, Tietê and Pinheiros, the city suffers with terrible floods. A total of 1500 km of rivers, streams and fountains where covered with the worst asphalt you´ll find in the whole world to form this huge traffic jammed city. Of course the rain water flows with some violence around here. Nature was buried in São Paulo.

But what brings so many people here? What makes it possible for apartments to have had an appreciation of more than 300% in 10 years? Why are so many Brazilians and foreigners interested in this mess?

In the city center, Bolivians where found to be working in slavery. The contradictions of the world are right here right now, but are mostly invisible. The periphery of the city is far away, and although there are poor neighborhoods close to luxurious apartment buildings, the situation is radically different from Rio. In Rio, the hills are so close do the shore (and to the more noble areas of the city) that is looks like the shanty houses are going to fall into the sea any minute. In São Paulo the situation is different.

According to IBGE Institute, in 2010 there were 20.309.647 million people living in the extended area of the city. A Photographer friend of mine, Iatan Canabrava, who has for a long time taken the periphery as the theme, told me of his sensation on a helicopter ride. As he got further away from the city center, the buildings were substituted by a brownish colored neighborhood of houses. Most of them are left unfinished and are not painted at all (although they have TV sets and now an amazingly great amount of web connected computers). As the landscape turns brown, police turns away and transportation becomes scarce. Ferraz de Vasconcelos, Capão Redondo and Itaim Paulista are places most of the medium class people like me have never visited.

In São Paulo, it can take a regular worker 1 or 2 hours to arrive at his destination in the morning or in the afternoon. And that applies to the rich as well as to the poor, except for those rich enough to fly helicopters to work, and believe me, there are lots of helicopters in this city, 420 to be precise. Traffic jams are literally in the air.

So, after building enough walls around houses and apartment buildings as to make them look like prisons, finally, under the heavy rain and in the traffic, we all are trapped together. Be rich or poor, we are part of the same fear and immobility.

At the same time, Sâo Paulo is one of the most interesting cities in the world. In his movie Blindness (2008), Fernando Meirelles pictures one of the most chaotic, and therefore spectacular views of the city, a viaduct nicknamed “Minhocão” (that could be translated as big worm). And so it is: nasty, crawling, fetid, but brutally vital for the city traffic. It is almost a metaphor of what São Paulo is for Brazil as a whole: a brutally vital ugly mirror.

But last month I finally went to Brasilia: an amazing experience. Incredibly blue sky, Niemeyer buildings vanishing in real estate speculation, a mixture pot of races, especially of people from the northern country. Brasilia is beautiful in many ways.

It was Thursday. Huge abandoned corridors and empty meeting rooms illustrated what the “loneliness of Power” means in the Congress building.  Power itself was alone in the building, with a couple of public servants and an army of waiters serving coffee from a huge “coffee factory” in the basemen that looked like a sweat shop.

Yes, there was a session going on. In the silence of the corridors, so much happens. But that is how it feels to be Brazilian. Even if all of us were to shout in those corridors, there would be no guarantee that we would be heard, except by deaf waiters who serve the people that are supposed to serve us. We have democracy, but not a democratic system. Everything is designed for the perpetuation of a system that does not help anyone taking a 2 hour ride to work for a salary of U$250 to have a better journey, a better life or pay lower taxes embedded on products.

Being Brazilian is not knowing how to change things and yet, smiling. It´s to have the desire to fight, but being too busy for it, it is to dance the dances of time while the Japanese sleep (or die). It is being Italian, Portuguese, African, Chinese and Dutch. It´s to dance a Gilberto Gill song that used to call everyone to embark the Express 2222, which in the seventies announced the year we would finally be important. Being Brazilian is suddenly being interesting to the world, and yet being so late for that. Our problems as are as ancient as they can be in the New World.

So we are late to get ready for the World Cup, late for the Olympics, late to be ashamed or lazy. Every Carnival tells us we are capable and ready.

Being Brazilian is also to know that, in the division of archetypes among countries, it is our job to be the big mixture pot of ethnics and ethics, the place where people run to when they are desperate for love or in need of a hiding place. It is being hope, and also a huge picture of frustration, it´s being the strange exotic brother of the tall blue eyed guy. It´s being more Dionysos than Apollo.

In a Matisse like dance, we are seen in the picture for the first time.May we know what to do next.



The volcano as a metaphor of creativity

I recently visited the  Villarica Volcano in Pucon in Chile. Awesome!

Villlarica Volcano view

Villlarica Volcano view

One of the facts that puzzled me was to understand why people aren’t afraid to live so close of danger?

The Villarica Volcano is in continuous activity. According to the people that live there, the constant dropping of some type of smoke or remains is a sign of its volcanic health.

So while there are signs of fire… there is no disaster.

That made me think about how we deal with the creative process.

From my personal point of view, we are able to spend years feeling that our creative power is underutilised and do nothing about it.

“When I retire… when I get more money… when I have a comprehensive boss…” At last, we cover our personal crater and blame the inadequate present conditions. Inside us, the effervescence continues because life is intense and every person has a unique capacity of production.

How stressed can we get in this situation?

Suddenly, a vulcanic burst will wake us and we’ll question our profession, marriage, our way of building relationships and many other places of achievement that are part of our lives.

In organizations it often happens. People are immersed in their daily activities and suddenly innovation teams are assembled to produce major eruptions in a few days.

Of course, eruptions play their part. They may be signs of nature putting everything in its due place or may simply be power is showing it most amazing face. But the people of Pucón teach that constantly expelling some smoke may be much healthier.

Hence the importance of being always connected to our power, hence the importance of self achievement. At the organizational level, the existence of open processes of innovation in which everyone can contribute a little at a time could be a sign of  “volcanic health”.

It´s been known for a long time that the majority of historical cases of great instant discoveries are myths constructed by its own authors. Indeed, they’re results of years of research and the authors were in permanent activity.

Climbing up to the edge of Villarica´s crater to see the yellow patches of súlfur, the 360 degrees view and to hear the incredible noise of the lave, is only possible in these conditions. We may want to get away from eruptions.