“You’re going to a conference for young creatives in Las Vegas.”
That was about all we knew before going into our week at Creative LIAisons. We didn’t even know each other. But that information alone was enough to set some expectations. A room full of young creatives trying to prove how young and creative they are. Rehearsed presentations punctuated with buzzwords like ‘breakthrough’ and ‘innovation’. A city where even the sky is fake depending on where you’re standing. Truthfully, it all felt palpably at risk of being predictable. And that’s where the lesson began.
The first two days were a f@#$ing rollercoaster. We spent most of them furiously scribbling notes while people like Taras Wayner, Doerte Spengler-Ahrens and Ralph Van Dyk unpacked volumes of advice and experience faster than you could jot down. Ted Royer swapped his lecture for a full hour of Q&A just to remind us not to take things too seriously and “do shit that scares you.” Pum Lefebure dared us to quit our jobs. Bob Isherwood played a didgeridoo just to prove you can put an idea into anything- even a dead log. They introduced ideas and started conversations that made your brain itch in a good way. And in just two days left you so full of inspiration you thought you might explode.
On stage for day three was the Innervation Lab, which may sound like The Thunderdome for breakthrough chemistry experiments, but was more like a crash course in how entrepreneurs think. Professor Saras Sarasvathy from UVA’s Darden School of Business bravely put us 75 young creatives through business school for the day (or as close to it as most of us will ever get). Her eye-opening lesson in creating like an entrepreneur challenged how we think and work, and showed us that the most powerful resource we have is each other.
Our new learnings were quickly put to the test, or shall we say thrown to the sharks, when we were split into teams and given one hour to create a new business idea using her method. The goal? At the end of the day, the most successful teams would pitch to Daymond John and Kevin Harrington of Shark Tank. You’d be amazed at the ideas that came from this room in such a short time. Both the Sharks were. It was a real time lesson in the power of thinking in new ways. If the first two days made our brains itch, this one made them grow.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, the final day of the program came and we were given the privilege of sitting in on the final award discussions of the LIA juries. A virtual master class in award-winning work, we got to hear and see it all straight from the source. If there was ever a time to become an actual sponge, this was it and we did our best to soak it up.
Looking back, LIA does the seemingly impossible. Rather than just celebrating the best work of the year, LIA celebrates the work that has yet to be made. They do it by investing in the people who are going to make it. For one magic week, Creative LIAisons stripped away the things that make creativity our jobs- budgets, timesheets, clients, deadlines- and dug into the reasons we make creativity our lives. Now that’s inspiration.