BIG Conference review

If you were to take just one message from BIG 2013, it’s this – creativity isn’t just for creatives.

BIG_Creative_Lancashire_Lancaster_July_2013_24Creativity permeates every aspect of successful businesses. From its products and through its processes and its people.

And at the heart of that is innovation. Not invention, though that is one manifestation of innovation, but simply looking beyond the accepted norms.

Much of what innovation and creativity is about, we learned, is in challenging assumptions about ‘the way we do things around here’ and providing a secure environment in which these challenges can be aired and tested, accepted and rejected.

BIG 2013 (the ‘BIG’ stands for Business Innovation for Growth) was staged by Creative Lancashire at Lancaster University and 250 delegates from across the north west took part in an inspiring day of speeches, workshops and shared learning, with contributions from some of the brightest brands in the UK.

Ruth Raban, chief executive of Creative Lancashire, said: “Our intention is to establish the importance of creativity in all aspects of running a business in whatever sector.

“Historically, the UK’s arts schools were founded and funded by the captains of industry – the idea of creativity benefiting business is not new, but we do need to remind ourselves of its importance and of where it fits.

“Some see creativity as separate from other parts of a business – it’s not, it’s integral. To solve engineering problems requires creative thinking; to solve any business problem or challenge requires creative thinking.

“To be an entrepreneur, you have to be a creative thinker – you can’t stand still; you must continually change and innovate. That’s creativity.”

Charles Hadcock, chair of Creative Lancashire, is an artist, an engineer and an entrepreneur and he opened the conference, which had a focus on exploring opportunities for growth in new technologies and new markets.

“There is nothing more exciting than seeing creativity help drive profits!” he said. “Businesses are most alive when they have moments of inspiration; it’s our job to help them have more.”

Phil Jones, chief executive of hardware giant Brother UK set the tone of BIG 2013. “Innovation doesn’t have to be shiny and new,” he said, “and it’s not exclusive to the entrepreneur.”

Too much emphasis, he said, was placed on seeking ‘the big idea’ or the radical change when, in fact, most innovation is incremental.

“At Brother, innovation and creativity is about staying relevant to our target customers,” he added.

And Phil gave advice for those seeking their creative locus: “Disconnect from the work matrix, practise active curiosity and preserve the time you need for creativity.”

BIG 2013 was closed by Lancaster serial entrepreneur Martin Higginson, whose best known ventures have included Monstermob, Cityblock and NetPlayTV.

He told delegates to trust their instincts and be wary of chasing the money. “Profit is a by-product of business success,” he said.

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  More information and photos can be found in the latest edition of Lancashire Business View.