At the end of May I was lucky enough to be able to pack my bags and head to Montreal for what was meant to be a conference like no other. And C2MTL delivered. It was the best conference I’ve ever attended, bar none (even the Economist agreed with me). Over 30 speakers, including Dr. Muhammad Yunus, James Cameron, and Tony Hsieh,shared their thoughts on creativity and commerce and was all wrapped up in the most creative and engaging experience that Sid Lee andCirque du Soleil could imagine. It was a spa for the mind and spirit. I came back to SoapBox full of new ideas of how to improve our client experience and full of energy to take new approaches in our work.
One of the messages that inspired me the most came from Philip Sheppard, a world renowned
composer and musician. At one point in his talk he played a simple scale on his cello: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti . It was a familiar tune to all of us in the room. We had all learned that steady, measured tempo in grade school music class. In every corner of the globe and whether it be the flute, piano or bassoon, we all play it the same. But then he switched it up. He played the second note for two extra beats, the third one as a quick staccato, the fourth a long, somber whole note and then capped it off with a crescendo on the final note. All of a sudden we had the same simple scale but a whole new musical sound. It was beautiful. And at that moment, the message clicked: taking a different approach to a typical problem can create a magical outcome.
The Proof – the benefit of taking a different approach
Simon Berry and ColaLife
Through his work in community development work in Africa, Simon Berry, Founder of ColaLifewas exposed to a serious problem: 1 in 5 children in developing countries did not make it to their fifth birthday largely due to preventable diseases including dehydration from diarrhea. He also noticed that while the shelves in the pharmacy were bare, in even the most remote of villages there was a steady supply of Coca-Cola.
His conclusion was that it was not for a lack of desire for the medicine but a lack of access. And then he had a eureka moment: Simon realized that he could leverage Coca-Cola’s distribution channels to get the important oral rehydration Zinc and salts to the children. He created this unique package that fit in between the slots. This wedge shaped container also acted as the way to measure the right amount of water and a sanitary cup to take the medicine. With ColaLife, Simon is getting the same product to the same consumers but packaged and distributed in a whole new way. As a result, he is on his way to solving this dire issue. In the 2013 pilot, 25,000 kits were purchased and 45% of children were treated with the kit. Magical.
David Carrier and Agnes Dei CateringThe catering team Agnus Dei had the challenge of feeding over 5,000 participants over four days. No small feat, indeed. Among the sweeter foods were candy, cookies and ice cream. Typically you’d think that the candy would be served in a jar, the cookies on a plate and the ice cream scooped out of tubs. Think again.
David and his special team reimagined the presentation of these items to create a delicious and memorable experience. The candy was strewn on a clear plastic table top, grouped by the colours of the rainbow. The cookies were casually dumped on a similar clear plastic tabletop. No restrictive bowls or carefully plated treats – just pure, child-like indulgence in delicious treats.
The ice cream was perhaps the most stunning feat of engineering and creativity. It was frozen around a spit that the servers rotated as the conference participants held scoops against the ice cream to capture the yummy treat. It was if the ice cream tub was turned inside out and we could experience this typical dessert in a whole new way. Magical
Bjarke Ingles and 8 House
If you live in a city, chances are you have seen several (or a what seems like hundreds) condo complexes rise up around you. The typical approach is a high-rise tower filled mainly by one or two bedroom units and commercial spaces on the ground floor. Oh, they also typically throw in a Party Room and a gym as a way to create communal space.
Bjarke and his team at BIG completely rethink these typical elevated structures and design something that does much more that put a roof over one’s head. A great example his approach is8 House. Located in a new suburb of Ørestad in Copenhagen, Denmark, the mixed-use development brings together different types of residential housing, retail and office space within a space that fosters social connectivity and interaction. It is shaped in a figure eight with a promenade and a cycle track weaving throughout it so that the residential and commercial spaces intersect. In the center of each circle are two lush courtyards where people can interact. He has also thought of the interaction with the elements and lowered the corner of the southwest courtyard so that the light and air can enter the space. Creating a structure that not just provides shelter but promotes interactivity, livability and is a pleasure for all the senses enriches the lives of those who inhabit the area. Magical.
Whether it is solving the problem of diarrhea in Africa, urban development in Coppenhagen or just thinking about how to best serve cookies at a conference, Simon Barry, Bjarke Ingles and David Carrier showed that taking a different approach can create superior results. Sure, there is a standard and acceptable way to present things like an income statement. But beyond that, each day we are faced with tasks, activities and problems that could be addressed in a variety of forms. From what I saw at C2MTL taking a different approach can lead to magical outcomes.