Clustering Works Better than Individuals

This post has been postponed for a tad too long, and to cancel it altogether feels like a shame, since there’s something to share, although only a little bit. Alright. This is from The 3rd Indonesia International Conference on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Small Business (IICIES), held by School of Business and Management (SBM) of Institute of Techology Bandung (ITB) on July 26-28, 2011, at Gedung Merdeka, Bandung. The title of this year’s IICIES was “Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship in the New Era”.

I was appointed as the moderator for the first panel session, so I might post about it later. But for now, I’d like to note down some points taken from the keynote speech, about “Creative Clusters”, by Gerald Lidstone from Goldsmiths University, London.

He opened the session by complementing that IICIES was much more creative, innovative and exciting, contained more energy and diversity, compared to a meeting he attended previously, before he came to Indonesia.

He then began his speech with a statement: how it is possible to cluster different fields of creativity.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it the more you have. – Maya Angelou

UK "creativity" map He continued by presenting a graph that shows how Creativity can be seen as a developing process; in this case, according to the UK government. I recreated the graph in a much simpler form, containing the following phases:

–       (Start) giving children creative education

–       Turning talents into jobs

–       Supporting research and innovation

–       Helping creative business grow and access finance

–       Fostering & protecting intellectual property

–       Supporting creative clusters*

–       Promoting Britain as the world’s creative hub

–       Keeping the strategy up-to-date

From here, we could see the position of Creative Clusters, at which phase they take part within the ‘wheel’.

The next graph showed the levels/scopes of “creative industry”, which starts with (1) core creative fields, which would form (2) cultural industries, leading to (3) creative industry & activities, and end with (4) the rest of economy. In this graph, Creative Clusters exist between the 3rd and 4th levels.

Meanwhile, UNCTAD classification of creative industries is as follows, where Creative Clusters are already visible.

Creativity is the ability to find new solutions to a problem or new modes of expression; thus it brings into existence something new to the individual and to the culture. – Betty Edwards (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain)

Creative Commons are sometimes a movement against the government and big businesses; to resist controls.

Among the examples given was how creative core actors (artists, etc.) tend to look for neglected/abandoned spaces to work, since it’s the most affordable they can get. Then little businesses cluster around them. People is the creativity software who (re)use the buildings. No fancy place. This kind of live-work facilities is a way that actually works.

Businesses then move to where the workers are, forming cultural activities of an area.

These cases can be seen as the emergence of contemporary arts, etc . What happens to the old crafts production, such as textiles, ceramics and jewelry or metal crafts? They support the new entrepreneur.

See, this reminded me of the amount of old buildings in Bandung that are running down and only waiting to fall down, while the creativity and the energy of the people are alarmingly high. What kind of matchmakers do we need?

There are four levels of development for the Creative Cluster:

1 MATURE: one that has been around for a long time, and is usually a business to business consumption, i.e. Hollywood for film/TV, Milan for fashion and furniture design/products, and New York, Paris and London for fashion.

2 DEPENDENT: one with public investments (public subsidy) by governments, regions, cities, etc., financing SME and micro creative enterprises. This happens to limited and underdeveloped local markets, where governments have stepped in. Examples for this were: UK creative industry quarters in Sheffield, Taipei creative industry development, and digital media city Seoul.

3 ASPIRATIONAL: one with very small beginning but with high levels of public and institutional promotional activity. It starts with a group of people trying to be bigger, as in “How fast can you develop without public money?”. Examples included Creative Precinct Brisbane, Digital Media Singapore and Westergasfabriek Amsterdam.

4 EMERGENT: it’s a start-up cluster with infrastructural investment from the public sector, one that develops local and regional markets. It has visible cultural consumption and internationalization of market reach, i.e. digital media in Barcelona (that gets supports from state companies, European Union and government) and film/TV industries in Cardiff.

As for Indonesia, the question was: where does the Indonesian government put their money? In business, or infrastructure? Because it requires lots of political will and finance to determine a country’s creative industries.

He continued discussing the role of universities and centers of research, presenting an example of Arabianranta in Helsinki, which is a home to 10,000 people, a workplace for 5,000 people, a campus area for 6,000 students (including Aalto applied sciences and Helsinki pop & jazz conservatory) and contains 1,500 professionals. It is also a hub for 300 enterprises that holds 4,000 employees. What’s remarkable is the ability to feed off the creativity, finding new business partners and customers via their website []. Among the ongoing projects they have is Helsinki Living Lab, sponsored by TEKES, which promotes user-driven methods and tools for improving the real-world development of Product and Services.

Another example is Dr. Who, a renowned television series in the UK. The series started in 1963 until 1989, and was revived in 2005. Dr. Who is an old brand. BBC commissioned a new program from a regional center, Wales, which was unusual. Market research showed negative result for the plan, but it turned out that there were 30 million viewers per series, 10.4 million alone in New Year Day 2011. As a consequence, BBC Wales doubled its income in 3 years to 50 million pounds.

This doesn’t stop right there. The success of the series led to the creation of interactive computer games, trailers, etc. Tourism to locations has also increased to more than 40% over the last ten years (it reached up to 13 million visitors in 2008). In Cardiff, a number of activities also turned up as the excess: exhibitions, studio tours, etc. More spillover benefits of course also include the employments of writers, catering, property design, costumes, aviation repair, etc. Based on this experience, BBC has decided to make 50% of BBC Network TV shows outside London by 2016.

That was a result ff government invests in infrastructure to get creativity going.

Creative industries are more innovative than many high-innovation sectors, i.e. professional and business services.

NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) maps all clusters in UK.

Presence of creative business generate a creative buzz.

All are achieved with collaborations, not individualism.

He closed his presentation by discussing the following list of Myth versus Reality concerning INNOVATION (source: “Leading Innovation”), as follows:




Flash of insight Comes from immersion
Brilliant idea Fail early but often
Individualistic Collaborative
New knowledge Admitting ignorance
Invention Mostly development
Originality Borrowing
Look to the future Look sideways and backwards
Internal research and development Networked, open innovation
Product pipeline Consumers as innovators
All about learning But unlearning (questioning, being radical) just as vital

Conclusively, he stated that Clustering works much better than individuals.

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