Innovation & Co-Creation In 18th Century Style

Innovation & Co-Creation In 18th Century Style

Photo Credit: Christo and Jeanne-Claude | The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005 | Photo: Wolfgang Volz | © 2005 Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a Detroit Bluestockings Crew event featuring Lisa Waud of Pot & Box and Flower House fame! What a cool evening! There are so many related topics to discuss.

First, Lisa talked about inspiration. Interestingly, The Flower House was inspired by Christo and Jeanne-Claude (familiar to many for their Gates project in New York's Central Park). Lisa had been looking for an opportunity to act upon that inspiration and develop an accessible, immersive, large-scale temporary installation. Her idea for The Flower House began to solidify during a Christian Dior exhibit she attended in Paris. I loved hearing her say that she stole that idea and brought it to Detroit! I'm a firm believer in the Mark Earles' approach to making more of (or at least repurposing) other people's ideas by copying them and applying them in new and different ways:

"As a species...there are a number of advantages to copying...it allows individuals to outsource all sorts of cognitive activities to those around them."

I asked her what she thought attracted the designers to her project. She attributed their enthusiastic participation to the complete artistic freedom it afforded them.

"Most [floral designers] spend the majority of their time realizing their clients' visions. It's a rare opportunity for a designer to be able to develop something completely their own with no restrictions on their creativity."

One of the most memorable aspects of the project for Lisa was the exhilaration of the large-scale collaboration--something she's craving again. A critical component of that collaboration was trusting the advice of her team. When it became clear that their aspirational launch date of May was unattainable, members of Lisa's team formulated a new plan, hosting a one-room preview installation for influential members of the press and pushing back the actual event until October. What could have been a misstep became a pivotal tactic that fueled the amazing success of the project.

bluestockings 3
bluestockings 3

On a related note, this was one of six events the Detroit Bluestockings Crew is hosting in an 18th century salon format--small social gatherings in intimate settings--with the "aim to enliven culture, conversation, and the organic production of knowledge." The Crew is a collective assembled specifically to support the Cranbrook Salon, "an exhibition that constructs thematic connections and groupings" of artworks. Their objective is to help patrons see the collection from new perspectives. While two of the salons will occur at the Cranbrook Art Museum, the rest take place at spots across Detroit. This unique pairing of topics, locations, speakers, and curated content is such an inventive way to drive exposure, attendance, and reach. Historically inspired, the Bluestockings Society was a group of intellectual women and men in London who hosted discussions about topics that interested them including literature, art, and popular events, in informal salons. In fact, our hosts, Meaghan Barry & Lillian Crum of Unsold Studio, designed an interactive salon game to accompany Lisa's talk.

I was struck by the fantastic applications for co-creation. We were organized into groups and assigned the task of designing one room in a large, period-style residence. We were instructed to examine the art within the Cranbrook Salon, find a piece that inspired us, develop a related theme, and decide where to hang the art work, with absolutely no restrictions on scope or materials. While some of the attendees were unprepared for this interactive exercise, most everyone embraced the challenge and many of the ideas generated were exceptionally creative. Of course, I kept thinking about the applications for my clients' businesses:

  1. This is a wonderful idea for a focus group activity
  2. Situated within the realm of a specific organization, this would be a highly engaging innovation exercise. Imagine what a group of InfoSec professionals or a team of Product Developers or a Customer Experience Design Department would do in an environment freed from all restrictions!

Incidentally, I noticed that Lisa was collecting inspiration from the ideas generated to apply to her business as well. I think she'd really enjoy coffee with Mark Earles!

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