A View From The North: Creativity and ideas

If you haven’t read Steven Johnson’s book, ‘Where Ideas Come from’ you  should. It might challenge some of your long held beliefs about where great ideas really come from. Where-good-ideas-come-from A ‘slow hunch’ is much more valuable than a Eureka moment. Flashes of insight rarely happen, most great innovations are the result of graft, of edit, précis and distillation. A connected, open and collaborative group are always smarter than a lone thinker. The best ideas come from building on the inventions of others. Peer behind a Darwin, Einstein or even Google and you’ll find a great body of thoughts and ideas from other people they recombined into something greater, over period of time where, along with talent and genius, there was a lot of hard work and patience. Which also means that where you work and think is just as important as HOW you work and think. Environments that naturally throw a lot of people together, with a strong culture that encourages them to share ideas and collaborate, these are the hotbed of the great leaps forward. Which is why Manchester is such a great place to work if you’re in media and marketing. Because good ideas pay back. We know from all sorts of sources that innovations and creativity pays back disproportionately – from the IPA Databank to the analysis of the work PHD does across the world – and the city I work has long been an engine of ideas and innovation. Going back to Johnson’s book, cities have always been hotbeds of ideas and innovation. The sheer density of people and the buzz this creates simply makes things happen. Communities of skilled and like-minded people spark each other and create a critical mass. It’s just as true of San Francisco and digital innovation, it was Florence and the birth of the Renaissance in the 14th Century, or philosophy in BC Athens. And it has certainly been true of Manchester. Our dense city with its open, cheerful and generous culture was where John Dalton’s theories paved the way for modern chemistry. It was at Manchester University that Rutherford discovered how to split the atom. More recently, graphene was discovered here.

In the Midland Hotel, just around the corner from our office, Rolls first met Royce. We have seen the snowballing of communities and movements here too. Manchester was the cradle of the world-wide Co-operative movement, feminism, the first professional football league and the Guardian – PHD’s founding client and now a worldwide media brand. Culturally, Manchester birthed Coronation Street, and, at the other end of the spectrum, was where Charlotte Bronte sat down to write Jane Eyre. While Joy Division and their later incarnation, New Order, along with The Smiths, sparked a movement of Manchester music that created The Stone Roses, the Charlatans and later slider-roses It feels like the Manchester media scene has its own special community today. The BBC produces much of its output in Salford, next door to ITV, and with all the important media owners here too, we have a thriving, collaborative culture where we can bounce off some of the best innovators in the business. PHD is a great place to work whatever office you’re in, but I think what makes Manchester special is our tight knit media community, constantly feeding of the cultural buzz of the city. This is a city that has always driven things forward and right now, it feels like we’re doing this more than ever.

Written by Andrew Hovells, Planning Director, PHD in Manchester.

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