Occupy Wall Street demonstrators
On the streets of Seattle today, a group of young men and women will head out for perhaps the hardest job in any major American city. Kind of looking like hippies of a bygone time, their ages range between twenty and thirty. With clipboard in hand, these dedicated workers will work eight hours under a constant barrage of rejection, nastiness, and stinginess. The Seattle foot champions for social causes are not particularly welcomed by businesses or pedestrians prompting numerous efforts to restrict their efforts. Nevertheless, rain or shine, they will be there. Count on it.
My creative, busking, pierced and tatted youngest son Devon canvasses under these conditions forty hours a week. He took the job because he needed to work. Without a work history and his idealistic view of a vagabond lifestyle, the canvassing job seemed a good match. A sensitive young man, the constant rejection is tough on him. When he heads to the streets he has no delusion what to expect. Canvassing in good times for universally acceptable charities is tough. Canvassing during recession for ofttimes controversial organizations and causes seems almost impossible. Yet, he and his comrades will be out there again today trying to convince others of the worthiness of their causes.
Whenever I hit a roadblock about my vision for Paroxumos, I remind myself of Devon. Almost every time I pitch the idea to somebody I get shot down in flames. Most of the ground-to-air flak comes in some form of a question about a target audience willing to pay for my services. Creativity, innovation, and training are ROI challenges for hard-nosed number crunchers. Soft investment is a hard sell during good times; soft investment during hard times is an expendable luxury.
Nesta report on the future UK economy and innovation
As far as I can tell, the reason for the dogged reticence to invest in people is fear. A typical reaction to being spanked by economic and market conditions is to fall back to what worked during more profit bearing times. A return to traditionalist views of management and a recessionary approach of “hold on to what you have or you will lose that too” mentality leads the fear parade. Yet it is just that kind of reaction that will further cripple businesses and national economies.
Not exempt from recession, a report by the independent United Kingdon charity Nesta, revealed that innovation was the core factor at 63% of the UK’s economic growth between 2000 and 2008. Nesta’s CEO Geoff Mulgan commented:
“Everyone agrees that innovation is the only route to long-term growth. The concern is that today’s report and Investment Index show that investment in the future didn’t just fall during the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, but also continued falling as the economy appeared to stabilise.”
You would think then that the concept of stimulating creativity for corporate longevity, personal fulfillment, and market positioning might be where to find corporate and municipal investments. Instead, cities are going bankrupt in America and near-countless businesses close down. History proves that you must grow or you will die is all the more true to ensure a robust entry into a post-recession recovery. Selling creativity and innovation shouldn’t be as hard as asking for donations to social and political causes from strangers on the street. Companies and individuals should be begging for it.
Devon. Photo by Kourtney Jay
The hawkers of creativity march the streets and the Internet preaching a path to recovery in the hope that somebody will listen. Who wouldn’t get down occasionally after listening to so many doomsayers, naysayers, and sosayers? My son gets up everyday knowing that is what faces him. Perhaps one of the things that gives him his mojo to do that everyday is that he believes in what he does. I admire that young man for his dedication, soft skills, and hard work. He inspires me to believe all the more in what I do, because he lives it.