Jumping on to the mainstream with something similar to what is popular already – that’s one way to survive as a creative. For me though I have always been interested in the disruptive creative process. By disruption I mean in it the sense of disruptive innovation – like Uber and Airbnb disrupted the taxi and hotel markets by coming up with a new way of thinking about it which wasn’t based on old models – but on a lateral fresh approach – a global taxi company without owning a single taxi, a global hotel room chain without owning a single room. Looking at things differently, understanding the old models but not copying them, coming up with fresh ideas to change the way things work. I also think that creatives can play a unique role in disrupting thought and ideas – showing the things that are, in new ways from new perspectives – questioning the status quo. Using their art to shine a light on things past, present and future.
Disruptive creativity is on the edge, standing on the cliff looking out from where the path stops with no obvious way forward, leaping, hoping to build wings on the way down.
The mainstream is somewhere else on well trodden paths with many people following. It takes bravery to go against the tide – to shout “hey i’m over here!” – doing great stuff – come take a look.
That’s the thing about the disruptive, innovative, creative process – it’s being created away from the mainstream, it’s over there on the edge. The ideas have to be awesome to make people take that walk away from the mainstream.
Luckily, not everyone is a mainstream follower, there are those looking for new stuff, there are those actively seeking it. They are not the huge numbers of the mainstream, but they are so happy when they find new stuff on the edge of things, that they write about, shout about it, tell others, come look and see! I have always been one of those people – an edge walker – seeing who else – what else is being created away from the mainstream.
The best ideas come from the edge and then become mainstream, not because they adapt to what the mainstream wants, not because they try to convince the mainstream that it’s a great idea, but because their idea, is so awesome people walk from the mainstream to find it.
The thing about the edge is that it’s risky, ‘edge ideas’ sometimes ‘fly’ sometimes don’t – because they are new, untrodden paths, nothing to follow, they have a high fail rate – not because the creator is rubbish but because that’s the nature of innovation – one hundred ideas to create one good one.
In 2016, Nairobi saw a lot of people creating stuff on the edge, of course not all of it worked, but what needs to be respected is that there are many ‘experimenting’ on the edge, in all kinds of ways, enough so that some things did work, some things did cause the audiences to walk to the edge to find it. Of course some who made the journey criticized, but that’s still the nature of the edge – it’s not for everyone, some people like the safety of the mainstream, what they know already, what they like already, stuff that’s passed a safety test! Some people don’t respect the process on the edge that some of the stuff won’t fly (the 99 ideas which fail to make one good idea which works). Or that when the edge gains a momentum, it also attracts people who don’t have the talent for it. So for me it’s good news when the edge gets criticized, because it means the noise it made was loud enough for the mainstream to notice.
For 2017, I hope the creative disruptives in East Africa, grow their confidence for edge walking, start to create safety nets for each other, start to share flying tips, stretch hands and ropes out to those learning to fly. That we start to build a supportive colony on the edge, which is happy to be criticized because it means people are noticing that something new is happening.