On the 13th of May, we explored some recent self-initiated projects from Archer's Mark, Fieldwork and Made by Many and examined the value that these creative innovations are yielding.
The focus for our most recent Breakfast Briefing – hosted over good coffee and fresh pastries in the Shoreditch House Library – was on Passion Projects; the eye-catching extra-curricular endeavours undertaken by creative companies, initiated outside of typical client work. To examine the purpose and potential of such projects and the value they deliver, we invited three creative outfits each sharing their own passion project and the learnings gathered through punchy presentations.
First up was Mike Brett, one of the founders and creative directors of production company Archer's Mark. He lead us through the story of their award-winning documentary about the world's worst football team, Next Goal Wins, which has been a pivotal project for the company and a catalyst for new business and exciting ventures. Next we heard Andy Gott, of Manchester based creative agency Fieldwork, talking us through their creative involvement in Project Wild Thing – a film-led movement that inspires children and parents to reconnect with the outdoors. And finally, Alex Harding from 'innovation accelerator' Made by Many took to the stage to explain their most ambitious self-initiated project to date, the Kickstarter-funded product named Hackaball — a responsive, interactive ball-game for children that encourages imagination, and most importantly, activity.
A big thanks to our speakers, and to Sam Dunne for photography.
Things we learned
1. Don't force it.
Ideas don't appear on request. They strike when you least expect it. Often, according to Mike Brett, in the pub! (The idea for Next Goal Wins took shape over a few pints at the Reliance on Old Street.) Creativity can't be forced, it can only be encouraged. So it's important to take yourself out of your usual working environment to encourage fresh thinking and allow for ideas and inspiration to strike.
2. Get the most out of your time.
Often, it's tricky for creative companies or agencies to work pro bono for charity projects or to fund their passions, especially in the early stages. Andy told us that he's learned to carefully outline exactly how much time and resource Fieldwork are able to give in these instances, obviously having to balance it with more financially beneficial client work. Dedicating a certain number of days per month to Project Wild Thing meant that Fieldwork became very time efficient, and used those precious hours to create something wonderful and worthwhile.
3. Everything is research.
Made by Many is a product innovation company, which means that research and exploration into new ideas and technologies is central to their output. Allowing time for tests, trials and passion projects is a way for Made by Many to ensure that their staff are actively engaged and thinking creatively. Hackaball was the product of accumulated learnings from the team, after they'd produced a long line of experimental apps and games for both tablet and mobile. Made by Many develop their products by constantly assessing user feedback, and Hackaball was actually co-designed with children – who played and interacted with the game at every stage of it's build. Judging from the feedback received it seemed that Hackaball was so popular, they decided to take it one step further and bring it to market for Christmas 2015, via a Kickstarter funded campaign.
4. Foster a creative environment.
If you're keen to get the most out of your creative employees, allow them the time and space to follow their passions. Some larger companies offer 20% time when, for one day per week, the team can work on their own projects, learn a new skill or devote some time to a charity. This worked a treat for Google as both Gmail and Google Maps were both thought up on 20% time.
5. The rewards are plentiful.
Each speaker extolled the virtues of their passion projects, and of the creative fulfilment they brought. But they also found value in a more commercial sense, citing the projects as paths to new collaborators, clients and creative prospects. One thing always leads to another, and if you're doing something interesting, interesting things will come out of it.
6. You can't fake passion.
It is obvious when a project or product has had heart and soul poured into it – you can tell from a mile off. Passion and purpose was evident in each of the three projects that were shared this morning, and inspired members of the audience to spark up their own ideas.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:13th May, 2015 at 9:30am
End:13th May, 2015 at 11:30am