This past Friday, December 1, 2017, over 300 adventurous souls braved forecasts for the storm of the century (which, as luck would have it, didn’t pan out that way) and got on a bus to an undisclosed location. Why? To spend an afternoon with other adventurous souls at the invitation of C2, a Canadian-born, collaboration-based organisation that throws transformative events for smart business leaders.
Armed with their smart “klik” badges, participants emerged from a dramatic maze directly onto a stage, where they were greeted with trays of edible goodies and mingled until the show started on the main stage. In a poetic introduction to the talks, dancers descended from the sky as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra played a hymn written specifically for the occasion. The afternoon unfolded with talks of rapid transformation and new opportunity, and culminated with brainstorms in the dark, in clouds and in ball pools, as well as several animated conversations among peers.
All of this was both a small sample of and an important step towards the C2 Melbourne 2018 gathering. Much work remains to be done before October, but this was, as C2 president Richard St-Pierre put it, day one of a collective journey: a kick-off for the many collaborations that will take place in the coming months.
I was fortunate to be able to witness it all as I lent a hand to our local team following the long flight from Montréal. Considering the calibre of participants and the level of engagement and energy I felt throughout the afternoon, I’d say this collective journey is off to a great start.
Gleaning key takeaways through open-air minutes
If you were one of the above-mentioned risk-takers, you may have noticed someone in a white-buttoned shirt taking notes on a big blackboard. As editor-in-chief of C2, I lead content teams to tell the story of our events and then craft – at times nerdy – content projects that explore the intersection of commerce and creativity (the two “C’s” in C2). One of those projects is The Minutes, an illustrated summary of key insights, learnings and highlights from talks, workshops, creative labs and key moments in the participants’ experience of a C2 event. What I was doing on that blackboard on December 1 was something of an open-air, live version of that process. Here are the key takeaways from what this here Montrealer-in-Melbourne heard that afternoon.
The world, it is a-changin’ – and this is an opportunity to be seized
Martin Enault, C2 Chief Operations Officer and C2 Melbourne Executive Producer, and Uschi Schreiber, Global Vice Chair – Markets and Chair of Global Accounts Committee, EY, both reminded us that we live in a time of great transition, and of the increasing importance of creativity for managing uncertainty.
“What will our great grandchildren say when they look back at 2017?” Uschi believes they might wonder if the people living in those times (that’s us) knew that they were living in a period of such rapid transition. A transition, as the EY global leader put it, towards “superfluid markets.”
In this context, we should ask ourselves: Are we merely consolidating the past or creating the future? As products and services take on a digital identity, Uschi says successful leaders will be those who excel in taking on a dual strategy:
- A strategy for today, where the goal is to keep improving efficiency.
- A strategy for tomorrow, where the key is learning to manage uncertainty.
Quoting former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (who herself admitted “plagiarizing it from Silicon Valley”), Uschi made the point that this rapid change is particularly visible in the context of political engagement: “Citizens are speaking to their governments using 21st century technologies, governments are listening on 20th century technology and providing 19th century solutions.”
What struck me is that both Uschi and Martin insisted that, more than anything, this crazy moment we live in should be seen as an opportunity to ask fundamental questions about our objectives both as business leaders and as a society. As I was listening, recording these salient points on the chalkboard and discussing the issues with participants (yes, my job is the best), one of them, who works in event marketing (of all things), went as far as saying that the current context of rapid change could even be an opportunity for completely rethinking our social and economic models. “What if we got rid of capitalism? What would we replace it with?” he asked. I say: Bring it on, Ron! (His name actually is Ron. Hi Ron!)
Act on your “what if’s”
Before participants went on to mingle and test-drive a few creative labs (see pictures below), Jean-Francois (JF) Bouchard, Founder and Chairman of C2 and Co-Founder and Chairman of Sid Lee, gave us a sense of the entrepreneurial story behind C2, which you can also read about in this article by The Age small business editor Cara Waters, who interviewed JF onstage.
After founding and growing successful creative agency Sid Lee for several years, JF found himself attending a slew of “awfully boring” business events around the world. Then Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre gave him a call and asked: What if we put together a series of business events that helped business leaders be more creative? What would that look like?
That was in 2011, and JF had just come back from Burning Man. JF and his business partner, while “burning” in feathers and pink Speedos, had coincidentally been playing around with a “what if” of their own: What if we could bring the visceral sense of community felt at Burning Man to the business world?
What if, indeed. Every year, the C2 Montréal event – which is heading into its seventh edition –brings together 6,500 international participants from across a diversity of industries as well as dozens of public and private partners. It is estimated to have created over 1,000 jobs and $174M in local economic impact.
Creating a context for collaboration
I could give you more stats (see below for a few fun facts about the C2 preview event), but as someone who has been observing and living the C2 effect since day one, I can tell you that what really fuels the C2 machine is the spirit of collaboration that inevitably takes over every one of these events. Time and time again, since 2012, I’ve seen magic at play. Inject a little dose of fun in a business setting, and you’ll notice something wonderful happening: people actually start talking (and listening) to each other, creating an ideal environment for working creatively, together, on tough issues.
I experienced that very same magic at the preview event, and that made me extremely happy: it will be a key ingredient for success as we work our way towards C2 Melbourne 2018, October 17-19.
As JF said: “In order to thrive in the world we live in, we need to build new collaborative models. It’s no longer about managing teams, but rather about creating vast ecosystems for collaboration.”
I would argue that having a bit of fun together also really helps.
I’m excited to see how the conversations that started on December 1 evolve in the next few months, culminating in the C2 Melbourne 3-day event, October 17-19, 2018. It’s those collaborations that will really turn the event into much more than just the sum of its parts. If you have ideas – especially if they’re crazier than ours – feel free to get in touch with the team at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d love to talk with you.
A few stats and fun facts
– 300 mm of projected rainfall. Actual rainfall: 10 mm
– 310 participants, 73% of whom were C-level executives, senior leadership, directors and managers across all sectors of industry
– 52 C2 team members
– 37 volunteers
– 15 partners
– 12 facilitators
– 9 Melbourne Symphony Orchestra musicians
– 3 dancers
– 3,230 total klik connections
– Highest number of kliks by a single participant: 78
– 5 creative labs: Sky, Cloud, In the Dark, Pool and Briefcase
– 304 lab pins drawn at random by participants
– 55,000 balls in the Pool (also found in the Pool: 1 phone and 1 ring)
– 32 group discussions in the Conversation Market
– 2 live artworks created by artists onsite
– 148 umbrellas