Innovative Cities and Charles Leadbetter


August 5, 2011 in PROJECT BLOG, R&D Process

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, Charles Leadbetter’s website is well worth investigating. Some of his thinking about the ingredients of successful, innovative and creative cities are distilled below.

An old idea becomes new when it is in a different setting. Innovation is often about re-using older things or adapting technologies in use.

Most innovation comes from combining different ideas and viewpoints to create a new idea. Innovation is cumulative, one idea building upon another. Innovation usually depends on an ebb and flow of ideas. Those new combinations usually come about through conversation. Indeed I would go so far as to say that conversation is at the root of all innovation.  Good conversations allow ideas to flow, to be challenged, developed upon, tested. In a good conversation you often end up saying things you did not expect and you leave with a shared understanding of an issue.

Ideas have to be challenged and tested – ideas rarely start off being good from day one. Innovation is not a theoretical activity but a very practical one. You have to try, fail a bit, learn, adapt, try again. That means organisation and cities that want to innovate have to take risks and learn from failure.

Cities that innovate are increasingly tightly connected to one another. But successful cities also need to differentiate themselves from their peers and competitors within these networks of innovation.

These days with cheaper, more distributed technology, that allows people to connect to and collaborate with other people very easily, more innovation is going to come from users and consumers, who want to be participants, players in the action not mere spectators on the sidelines. More innovation will become a participative activity. Innovation by the masses not just for the masses.

Here are some of his thoughts on how art and culture could be transformed by digital technologies and the web:

[Now] people are after a mix of three experiences… a mix of enjoy (being entertained and served), talk (a focal point for socialising) and do (they want to get involved, have a go, do their bit). The lines between these are not rigid.

The web’s significance is that it encourages people to adopt new habits and roles, as collaborators, editors, distributors, and creators of content.

The web encourages us to think and act WITH people. The principle underlying the web is the idea of endless, lateral connection.

The avant garde of the 21st century will have as its principle: combine and connect. The web will encourage a culture in which art encourages relationships and promotes interaction, encourages people to be part of the art, if only in a small way.

It is a digital version of a folk culture in which authorship is shared and cumulative rather than individualistic.

It is art as a conversation.

Art is not simply the result of self expression by the artists of a preconceived idea but a result of communication with the audience and other partners in the process.

An arts venue is a site for creative interaction and communication.

The web might open up who can contribute to the process of artistic creation, widen the definition of who is an artist.