There were a ton of outstanding speakers at C2-MTL.
With a diverse group ranging from Google’s Robert Wong to Arianna Huffington, this pantheon of speakers shared their creative and business insights with the rest of the conference.
There are empty seats because they were reserved – no complaints here, as this was the only time C2-MTL reserved seats.
- Fast Company’s Editor Robert Safian shed light on two projects: the 100 most creative people in business and Generation Flux. The most creative people in business project follows two rules: never do repeats, and never look at people already featured in Fast Company. This forces Fast Company to search far and wide for gems like Ma Jun. In talking about companies, he referred to Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
- Mark Chapman unveiled the results of the IBM CEO study. You can have a look (after signing up) here.
- Bertrand Cesvet, the chairman of Sid Lee, spoke about how creativity is not a process, as processes are replicable and predictable (creativity is neither). His theme centred around five emotional states of creativity: hope, anxiety, joy, anguish, and satisfaction. Kill fear by embracing hope, and citing Edwin H. Land: “Don't do anything that someone else can do. Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.”
- Rex Jung spoke about transient hypofrontality, and made an interesting connection between productivity and creativity in the mornings right after you wake up, as you’re in a natural transition between the sleeping state and awakeness. Of course, I’ll be the first to admit a slight lack of psych fundamentals to properly keep up with this speech, so I found this podcast transcript of another conversation with Jung to be friendlier as I could Google and go at my own pace. (It’s quite fascinating.)
- Winy Maas blew the crowd away and received the first standing ovation of the conference with his talk about curiosity. “What’s next?” he repeatedly asked the audience. Using these two words as transitions, he weaved through some of MVRDV’s ingenious projects, ranging from the balancing barn in Suffolk to the Gemini Residence in Copenhagen (basically, hanging apartments around a set of silos) and everything in between. He closed with his own perspectives on the vertical village concept. Key quote: “Nothing is impossible.”
- Arianna Huffington told a story about how she’d fainted from exhaustion and broke her cheekbone, and needed that to figuratively wake up to the realization that sleep brings more relentlessness and joy into busy people’s lives. Huffington and Paul Campbell from bLife unveiled a sneak preview of their collaboration GPS for the Soul, an app dedicated to relieving stress and bringing people to more relaxing states through soothing playlists and images.
- Lotfi El-Ghandouri pointed out the new buzzwords of the industry, “creativity” and “innovation," and how each starts off with a change in perspective: he recalled a time where he gave his son a birthday gift, and his son disposed of the toy and started playing in the box with his friends. Similarly, we need a change in perspectives, and to look beyond what things appear to be and how we use them.
- Ian Schrager turned the paradigm of money on its head, and explained that money will take care of itself if you push a good product. Pay attention to every single detail. He explained how his boutique hotels had an idea and attitude that appealed to certain psychographics, and how he got his inspiration from ship cabins when he had to work with very small rooms. Key quote: “Do something for yourself, and hope other people respond to it.”
- Cirque du Soleil captivated the audience as President and COO Daniel Lamarre and Director of Creation Jean-François Bouchard (not to be confused with the Sid Lee co-founder and C2-MTL chairman) presentation with powerful live acts from performers. The two spoke about the importance of production, as it is the deliverer of vision. They emphasized the “show” in show business, pointing out how the word “show” does come first. They also surprised audiences with an appearance from Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, who urged audiences to never compromise with challengers that believe your idea isn’t perfect, and to trust in each individual intuition of creativity. Key quote: “Be a good gardener of your dreams, don’t compromise, and have fun!”
- Executive Creative Director Robert Wong from Google’s Creative Lab shared several ideas with the crowd: make the world better within a 3-meter radius, “happy wife happy life” to gales of laughter and applause, and how surprise = (empathy + creativity) / expectations. Obsess over the why before you make cool stuff, and explore the meaning of what you’re about to do (i.e. the revolutionary Dove beauty campaign came from wanting to improve girl’s self esteems). He also shared a handful of emotionally-stirring videos produced by Google (warning: some are potential tearjerkers), and showed audiences the power of “making documentaries and demos, not ads.”
- Best-selling author Jonah Lehrer narrated a period of Bob Dylan’s life when he was creatively drained, and dissected the example, using it to explain how creativity works and how we balance between relaxation and grit (a combination of single-minded-ness and persistence in the face of inevitable frustrations). Key quote: “Answers come to you when you’re not looking for them.”
- Google’s CFO Patrick Pichette discussed a slew of examples of how Google innovates, and the mantra of making sure each project is capable of affecting 1 billion people. Key quote: “Open-source makes better mousetraps.”
- Michael Eisner argued that not everyone is creative, and that people have different talents. He also pointed out the importance of keeping creative leaders at the helm of the company, and the power of surrounding himself with excellent businesspeople to keep things going well. I’m paraphrasing this quote: When it seems like you’re paddling upstream, you may be paddling upstream. Sometimes though, if everyone says it isn’t going to work, maybe you should listen.
- Carl Bass from Autodesk compared business teams to basketball teams: would you want more Kobe Bryants, or more shooting coaches? He also touched on three trends: infinite computing (the decreasing cost of computers and the computers growing ubiquity), innovative businesses (referring to Ford looking to the meat packing industry for the assembly line model), and digital fabrication and 3D printing. Key quote: “No matter where you work, the smartest people work somewhere else. Crowdsourcing is just a way to tap into that.”
- Jennifer Yuh-Nelson talked about creating a character that she loved for Kung-Fu Panda, and emphasized the importance of remembering what you fell in love with about the project and reminding yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
- The Moment Factory’s Sakchin Besette brought to light the observation that people aren’t sharing as much physically, and Moment Factory’s own solution to that: bringing people together and creating events that encourage people to congregate. He received a standing ovation for an awesome video highlighting the production that Moment Factory created for Madonna’s Super Bowl performance. I couldn’t find that exact video, but I did find a good complimentary one. Key quote: “Technology is a tool to communicate emotion. Raise the hair on people’s arms.”
- The Sid Lee Bootcamp unveiled their video for Project (RED) to founder Deborah Dugan to an impressed crowd. Here’s what they came up with.
Where conferences often have one or two keynotes that dwarf everyone else, C2-MTL was careful to make sure Francis Ford Coppola’s name always appeared in the middle somewhere, just to minimize the possibility of overshadowing. (Nonetheless, Coppola still naturally drew probably one of the largest audiences of the conference, with people buying what appeared to be day-passes just to see his speech.)
Although my lips are unfortunately sealed (non-disclosure agreement), a lot of Coppola’s wisdom can be found on Twitter. This Montreal Gazette article by my friend Jason Magder aggregates many key Tweets made by the audience during the speech.
These keynotes, as valuable as they were, still consisted of only a portion of the C2-MTL event. Stay tuned to Techvibes for a glimpse into panel discussions, as well as a few individual interviews, and a glance at next year’s C2-MTL event.
This post is a part of a series designed to cover the entire C2-MTL experience.