Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The clever business of creativity: the experience of supporting Australia's industries of the future

‘The swan song of the Creative Industries Innovation Centre, ‘Creative Business in Australia’, outlines the experience of five years supporting Australia’s creative industries. Case studies and wide-ranging analysis explain the critical importance of these industries to Australia’s future. The knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape is both clever and clean. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture'.

Art critic and cultural writer, John Berger, in one of his less well-known articles, tells a story about the French-Russian sculptor Zadkine. At the very beginning of his career Zadkine was trying to establish himself as an artist in England but was not known and spoke little English. An old craftsman to whom he was briefly apprenticed to learn wood carving suggested he carve a wooden rose – but such a beautiful rose that whenever he showed it to prospective but sceptical employers they would always understand what he was capable of and give him the job. Zadkine took the advice and it laid the basis for his later success as an artist.

I thought of this old story about an old artist when I was reading the newly released publication Creative Business in Australia, the swansong of the recently departed and much missed Creative Industries Innovation Centre. In the same way as Zadkine’s rose, the example of the Centre is something that can be held in your hand and pointed at to show what is possible. It demonstrates some important ways that we can support our newly emerging creative industries – if only we have the imagination and foresight to understand their potential and their unique and distinctive place in the broader knowledge economy. Those associated with the Centre in its all-too-brief but productive life can point to the publication and say ‘This is what we did in such a short time. This is what is possible.’ It is proof of concept writ smaller than it needed to be.

'Creative Business in Australia' - getting serious, but not serious enough about one of the values of creativity

I use the old-fashioned example of an artist deliberately because while the creative industries are first and foremost about running businesses, they are businesses of a very particular kind.

Increasingly the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape are both clever and clean. They are mainly service industries that make up the knowledge economy, based on intellectual enquiry and research and exhibiting both innovative services or products and also often new and innovative ways of doing business (though to what degree is a matter this publication considers closely).

At their heart are the developing creative industries which are based on the power of creativity and are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, in most cases centred on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally. Where the creative industries differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not. As part of Australia's culture sector they share the critical function of managing meaning, which distinguishes this sector from other parts of the knowledge economy.

They are also closely linked to central social challenges Australia faces, such as responding effectively and productively to cultural diversity and Indigenous disadvantage. These industries depend on innovation and innovation occurs where cultures intersect and differing world-views come into contact and fixed ideas and old ways of doing things are challenged and assessed.

These changes in the economic life of the nation are also linked to the way the new knowledge economy is transforming the political landscape of Australia, challenging old political franchises and upping the stakes in the offerings department. Near enough is not good enough anymore.

Given that the knowledge economy will become more and more prevalent and central to Australia’s economic future, I wonder what this means for Australia’s politics over the next ten years. It will be interesting times and interesting challenges for the two major parties to remake themselves. To date neither of them have shown a willingness to do so, being consumed with their mutual contest. However, Turnbull’s successful challenge is in part a reflection of these underlying social, economic and demographic forces.

A good starting point might be a more forceful recognition of the growing importance of the knowledge economy and the creative industries at its heart. If we want to think big about arts and culture we have to talk about its relationship to creative industries and the knowledge economy. That means acknowledging that Australian arts and culture cannot be understood or fostered without locating them within this broader context. Of course this understanding does not yet exist to a sufficient degree within both the arts and culture sector and the creative industries - a pity when there is so much that each can learn from the other and so much of value that can arise from the interaction.

The publication reflects this breadth of vision as it ranges across many areas, with some excellent case studies as well as analytical overviews of the sector. It can be read right through or dipped into in your spare time to pick up some new insight or interesting angle. It discuss what a business model is and considers whether it is true that creative industries are pioneering new business models – or perhaps only the smaller, more incipient ones that fell below the Centre’s cut off level of a million dollar annual turnover and a three year history of operation.

It zooms from business practice to strategic policy. It outlines enterprise level challenges, examining critical industries like mining, photography and printing that have been challenged, sometimes radically, by the new digital paradigms. It also provides an overview of the chequered history of government support at both policy and program level – at national and state level – and looks at why and how Australia is different to countries like the United Kingdom, where recognition of the central role of creative industries is a given.

Read it at your peril. It might give you ideas – and good ones at that. It’s commendable that the various partner in this ground-breaking initiative went to the trouble to produce this publication so the lessons (unfortunately called ‘learnings’, as seems to be the current phrase of the moment way in government circles these days) are not lost. From my experience of government, I suspect that the government partners probably belly ached all the way to the printer but that doesn’t discount the value of their involvement.

What is particularly interesting is that the Creative Industries Innovation Centre shut its doors only months before Australia found itself with a Liberal Prime Minister who might actually be capable of grasping the importance of these industries and their potential for Australia. It’s too early to say whether we will see an about face on this issue. Whatever happens – or doesn’t – all political parties need to face up to the challenge of the knowledge economy and the critical role of the creative industries in it. Their ability to recognise and realise this opportunity will be judged accordingly, perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but over the next decade, unquestionably.

See also

Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles
‘After three weeks travelling round the North Island of New Zealand, I’ve had more time to reflect on the importance of the clean and clever industries of the future and the skilled knowledge workers who make them. In the capital, Wellington, instead of the traditional industries that once often dominated a town, like the railways or meatworks or the car plant or, in Tasmania, the Hydro Electricity Commission, there was Weta. It’s clear that the industries of the future can thrive in unexpected locations. Expertise, specialist skills and industry pockets can occur just about anywhere, as long as you have connectivity, talent and a framework of support that makes it possible. These skills which Weta depends on for its livelihood are also being used to tell important stories from the past’, Industries of the future help tell stories of the past – Weta at work in the shaky isles.

Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans
‘In many ways design is a central part of the vocabulary of our time and integrally related to so many powerful social and economic forces – creative industries, popular culture, the digital transformation of society. Design is often misunderstood or overlooked and it's universal vocabulary and pervasive nature is not widely understood, especially by government. In a rapidly changing world, there is a constant tussle between the local and the national (not to mention the international). This all comes together in the vision for the future that is Design Canberra, a celebration of all things design, with preparations well underway for a month long festival this year. The ultimate vision of Craft ACT for Canberra is to add another major annual event to Floriade, Enlighten and the Multicultural Festival, filling a gap between them and complementing them all’, Designs on the future – how Australia’s designed city has global plans.

Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities
‘It is becoming abundantly clear that in our contemporary world two critical things will help shape the way we make a living – and our economy overall. The first is the central role of cities in generating wealth. The second is the knowledge economy of the future and, more particularly, the creative industries that sit at its heart. In Sydney, Australia’s largest city, both of these come together in a scattering of evolving creative clusters – concentrations of creative individuals and small businesses, clumped together in geographic proximity. This development is part of a national and world-wide trend which has profound implications’, Creativity at work – economic engine for our cities.

The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival
‘Across Australia, local communities facing major economic and social challenges have become interested in the joint potential of regional arts and local creative industries to contribute to or often lead regional revival. This has paralleled the increasing importance of our major cities as economic hubs and centres of innovation’, The immense potential of creative industries for regional revival.

Smoking gun – the invisible cuts to national arts and culture funding 
‘The transfer of substantial program funds from the Australian Government’s main arts funding agency, the Australia Council, to the Ministry for the Arts has had the effect of masking serious cuts to crucial programs run by the Ministry, including its Indigenous cultural programs. There have been cuts to overall Ministry program funds stretching long into the future almost every year since the 2014-15 budget, with the long-term trend clearly heading downwards’, Smoking gun – the invisible cuts to national arts and culture funding.

Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world
‘Design and the language of design is very broad – much broader than architecture or industrial or graphic design – the forms we are most conscious of. Design is also very much about processes and the development of concepts across almost all areas of human activity. This means it also has a high relevance to the development of policy to solve pressing social challenges, moving beyond the world of design to embrace the design of the world. In a highlight of DESIGN Canberra this year, respected Dutch presenter Ingrid Van der Wacht led discussion about the relevance of design to innovative policy – from local, highly specific policy to grand strategic policy designed to change whole regions and even nations’, Design for policy innovation – from the world of design to designing the world.

Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?
‘With a Coalition Government which now stands a far better chance of being re-elected for a second term, the transfer of the Commonwealth’s Arts Ministry to Communications helps get arts and culture back onto larger and more contemporary agendas. This move reflects that fact that the new industries in the knowledge economy of the future, with its core of creative industries and its links to our cultural landscape, are both clever and clean. Where they differ completely from other knowledge economy sectors is that, because they are based on content, they draw on, intersect with and contribute to Australia’s national and local culture and are a central part of projecting Australia’s story to ourselves and to the world. In that sense they have a strategic importance that other sectors do not’, Full circle – where next for Australian national arts and culture support in the 21st Century?

Time for the big picture and long view for arts and culture
‘A far more important issue than arts funding is how can the broad arts and cultural sector become a better organised, effective voice for arts and culture and its wider importance for Australia? Changes like this happen because they are able to happen – because decision-makers think they can get away with it. The arts and culture sector and its supporters have to be influential enough that decision-makers think carefully about the importance and the standing of Australia’s arts and culture and weigh any decisions they make carefully in terms of the strategic needs of the sector. These current dire circumstances may provide the opportunity we have needed to look seriously at this question’, Time for the big picture and long view for arts and culture.

Out from the shadows – the other Arts Minister
‘I ventured out through the dark wilds of the Australian National University to hear the Opposition Spokesperson on the Arts, Mark Dreyfus, share his view of what a contemporary arts and culture policy might look like. It was a timely moment, given the turmoil stirred up by recent changes to national arts funding arrangements and the #freethearts response from small arts and cultural organisations and artists. Luckily, as he himself noted, he has a very recent model to work with. The National Cultural Policy is little more than two years old,’ Out from the shadows – the other Arts Minister.

‘Arts’ policy and culture – let's not reinvent the wheel
‘Faced with the increasing prospect that it could become the next Australian Government, the Labor Party is reviewing its ‘arts’ policy. Whatever happens and whoever it happens to, considered and strategic discussion of arts and culture policy is critical to Australia's future.’ ‘Arts’ policy and culture – let's not reinvent the wheel.

Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture
‘The developing creative industries are a critical part of Australia’s future – clean, innovative, at their core based on small business and closely linked to the profile of Australia as a clever country, both domestically and internationally.’ Creative industries critical to vitality of Australian culture.

Indigenous cultural jobs – real jobs in an unreal world
'Subsidised Indigenous arts and cultural jobs are real jobs with career paths that deliver genuine skills and employment capability.' Real jobs in an unreal world.

1 comment:

  1. In business we need good creativity in order to develop business skills and strategies; therefore we should take crucial support from professionals and experts to improve our business creativity. In every business we have effective teams those are capable to deal with worst situations, through which we are able to improve our business strategy.
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