A dozen of us gathered last Friday for the twelfth Stormy Lake Salon. We started the evening with wood-fired pizza and great wine, and then continued indoors for the Salon. Both Wade and Julie had cameras, and every pizza coming out of the oven had to run the gauntlet of paparazzi. Thanks to Julie for posting great photos on her blog.
When we finally got around to the discussions, I drew first spot and talked about the role of play in strategic thinking. Play is often associated with creativity, but there is greater need to be playful in the development of strategy. Being in a playful state better allows you to engage in counter-factual reasoning. The essence of strategy is moving from “what is” to “what could be.” A challenge with play is that it must be chosen and self-directed – you cannot mandate play. This is at odds with most work environments.
Brant and Susan followed up with lessons learned from living in Cochrane and Silicon Valley. One of the key elements of Silicon Valley was living in an environment that was surrounded by creativity and entrepreneurship. Sir Ken Robinson was cited as a very inspirational speaker oncreativity. Brant then pointed out that being creative or innovative alone is not enough. An idea that isn’t acted upon has no value. Execution is critical. This then lead into a very interesting observation that it is your network that is your source of influence.
Claudia had the most flavourful discussion. Fascinated by food, words and the imagination, Claudia talked about traditional Aztec guacamole and how it was seen to be an aphrodesiac, based on the properties of each of the ingredients. Avacados that are grown on “testicle-trees”, chile that is opened up to get at the ripe seeds, and lemons that were rubbed on body parts (those body parts – ouch). Claudia brough some guacamole in her molcajete (mortar and pestle).
Rob spoke passionately about the neorealism movement in Italian cinema, including work by notable directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. He remarked upon both the birth of the movement in the days following World War II, and on the less obvious fading of the movement in the early 1960’s when neorealism had run its course. ((I was in Blockbuster on the weekend, and picked up Fellini’s La Dolce Vita – and it turns out that Fellini is responsible for the term paparazzi – quite funny given our jokes about the pizza paparazzi earlier in the evening.))
Wade brought the sun, some wheat and some biscuits to his discussion. The argument was that issues du jour like “organic” or “local” or the “100-mile diet” still miss the fundamental point that we are completely disconnected from the sources of our food. And even if you are eating local, organic chicken, the chicks might still have been shipped out from Ontario. While we have joked that “meat comes from styrofoam”, the disconnect extends to virtually everything we eat. And that part of the connection is not just the source of our food, but the source of the recipe. The fact that the biscuit recipe comes from Wade’s aunt gives him – and all of us – greater connection to the food and where it comes from.
Janet, recently returned from Egypt, made observations about the kinds of decisions that governments make in these tough economic times. Cutbacks can be seen to be arbitrary and capricious. But if a politician is seen to be doing bad things for the right reasons, then they are given much more permission to make unpopular decisions. Janet called this the politics of intention. She observed that Ralph Klein was given a lot of permission to cut back in the 1990’s, largely because it was felt that his intentions were appropriate.Few politicians today have clear intentions, and this is causing them problems.
Julie wrapped up the discussions with a talk about the erosion of traditional media, and the decline of the editorial function. This was not a defense of traditional media, nor a condemnation of new media, but a question of how will the media be replaced, as current models seem doomed. The youtube video of Susan Boyle was cited as an example of the explosion of celebrity, and the cross-over of new media to Oprah. Of all the topics, this one sparked some of the most intense discussions at the Salon.
Looking back over the evening, two themes emerged. One was focused on creativity and new ways of thinking. The other was on rapid cultural change. And even these two themes are linked as creativity and new ways of thinking are necessary responses to rapid cultural change.
Thank you to everyone who came: Claudia Aguirre, Jorge Aguirre, Janet Brown, Brant Parker, Susan Parker, Wade Sirois, Janice Sirois, Julie Van Rosendaal, Rob Mabee, Mark Tewksbury and Karen Coppard.
And a great thank you to Rajesh and Letty who did such a fabulous job helping to run the evening.