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Changing Times and the role of Creativity


‘For the times they are a changing’ - Bob Dylan Prophetic words really when you think of recent times. These words written by Bob Dylan in the 60s stand true in our current decade.

‘For the times they are a changing’ - Bob Dylan

Prophetic words really when you think of recent times. These words written by Bob Dylan in the 60s stand true in our current decade.

We live in a world of carbon trading, global warming, global economic meltdown, Web V.2 (which most of us don’t understand), online communities and on and on the list goes.

Things are happening beyond our control that will change the way we do business, how we communicate and how we live.

The recent global financial market changes have been enormous and effecting people all over the world. In only a relatively short period of time interest rates, the dollar value, the superpowers of the world are dramatically shifting. The effect is trickling down into business bringing changes of various shapes and sizes.

We all know that change is nothing new. It’s been around for a long time and every so often it raises it’s head and causes turmoil. With change people either hide their heads in the sand or get creative, meet it head on and use it to their advantage.

Let’s head back to Hollywood in 1927 when the world changed dramatically forever. At a time when Hollywood was in its prime and produced more movies than any other time in history (up to 800 per year), stars like Rudolph Valentino and Mary Pickton were considered Gods and Saturday Matinees were more popular than Playstation and Nintendo Wii.

In 1927, great change was a foot when ‘Talking Pictures’ arrived.

For many the advent of sound was a major upheaval and created imponderable challenges.

Film Studios were forced to build new sound ‘stages’, clunky and noisy cameras were of no further use, directors and technicians needed to re-think and re-invent camera movements, microphone placements, all to accommodate ‘talkies’ and the new technology required to create them.

Many actors were less fortunate - with heavy accents or trill voices some simply didn’t manage the transition from silent to sound and saw their careers abruptly end. Stars such as Agnes Ayers, Emil Jannings, and Gilbert Rowland, (don’t worry I hadn’t heard of any of them either which just reinforces my case) saw their careers tumble from beneath them.

The advent of sound changed the Movie industry forever and with it the lives and careers of many. Some adapted, got creative and thrived, whilst others didn’t.

Take Charlie Chaplin. Now there’s a name you would have heard of. Chaplin was a Hollywood God. He entertained millions and influenced countless stars and actors (in fact still does). He brought vaudeville to Hollywood, co-founded United Artists, and is, without doubt, still considered one the Hollywood greats.

But Chaplin refused to have his ‘little tramp’ character talk. Of sound in movies he said ‘action is more generally understood than words’. Chaplin obviously thought having the tramp speak would undermine and detract from his endearing, pantomime character. And who’s going to argue with that! Even though he added musical tracks to films such as ‘City Lights’ he only ever briefly spoke once in ‘The Great Dictator’ when he mocked Hitler.

No one would argue the legacy he left behind. Chaplin is synonymous with silent film. And there lies the rub.

The tramp didn’t or couldn’t make the transition from silent to sound. Chaplin failed to fully adapt to the ‘talkies’ and create an opportunity from them. He made countless films before the advent of sound but only a handful afterwards.

In contrast, let’s look at someone who saw the dawn of sound not as a hurdle but as an opportunity and turned it to his advantage

In 1928, only a year after sound arrived, a small mouse made his debut in the world’s first talking cartoon ‘Steam Boat Willie’ and stunned the movie world and audiences alike. With Steam Boat Willies - Walt Disney had truly arrived. He saw an opportunity in sound and went with it.

And it wasn’t a once off - Disney had a knack for sensing change, getting creative and turning it to his advantage.

In the 1950’s, when another enormous change rocked Hollywood and the world forever – television, once again Disney was there ready to take advantage. Television, some said, would destroy the movie industry – why would people go see films when they could watch shows in their own home? But as one of Hollywood’s leading studios, Disney didn’t see television as a threat – he saw it as an opportunity to be used to his advantage.

Thinking differently to everyone else Disney had an idea. At the time he was creating ‘Disneyland’ and needed capital to get it up and running - he saw TV as a fundraiser and also as a promotional tool for his new project. Having done a deal with a major network, he provided an exclusive weekly show called ‘Disneyland’ and got the funding he needed. At the same time, as viewers all over America tuned in to watch, Disney would show them snippets of the park being built, exciting his potential guests.

Talking pictures and the advent of Television were two quantum leaps beyond the control of most people in Hollywood. Some survived and some didn’t, some saw change as opportunity, got creative and took control.

In 2008, once again great change is afoot and the world as we know it is changing, beyond our control.

The question is how will we all deal with it. Do we hide our heads in the sand or do we start to reinvent ourselves, get proactive, see opportunities that this change will bring, and start getting creative?

It is the Creative Companies – the ones that not only have great ideas but also have creativity as a key organisational value – that are better placed to deal with changes in their industry and their market, adapt to new technologies and trends, and maintain a competitive edge.

Now is the time to start thinking creatively and put processes and an organisational culture in place that allows you to tap into the creative potential of your business and your people. Smart companies know that it’s times like these that creativity in business is not just a great insurance policy against change - but a major driver to capitalise on it.


Disney’s World –Leonard Mosley Scarborough House 1990
The Man Behind the Magic, The Story of Walt Disney – Katherine and Richard Greene, Viking 1991
Film History of the 1920’s - Tim Dirks
The Great Chaplin,
The Worlds Great Movie Stars, - Ken Wlaschin, Salamander, 1979

© Nigel Collin 08
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