About 15 years ago, as commodity analyst for a major mining company, I was invited to a seminar run by a Japanese recruitment and career promotions company who took themselves very seriously. The title of the programme was CREAGEMENT. With upper lips as stiff as their starched collars, these earnest presenters explained that CREAGEMENT was a process of creating the right environment to ensure creativity in the work place. The objective was the establishment of a direct relationship: create a creative environment and it will ensure entrepreneurial excellent and innovation from the staff. As a meerkat we all know would say “simples!”
Snorting silently I listened politely for the first hour and then to their utter amazement and annoyance, I stuck my hand up and begged to differ with them. In polite Japanese interaction one never dares ask a question or interrupt a presentation; it is deemed the height of rudeness. But I could bear it no longer. I quoted the old relationship between silk purses and sows ears and the difficulty of converting the former into the latter; the point being dull lack-lustreness does not beget genius irrespective of the lighting in the room, the colour of the walls or the level of white noise piped out of vents in floor panels. But then I also addressed the converse; that being real talent is irrepressible, irrespective of environment. I cited the Beatles whose raw and unbridled musical gifts were spawned out of unemployed and down-trodden Liverpool – not a climate that my Japanese presenters would define as CREAGEMENT-opportune. My comments were received with polite nods of the heads but cold stares. A fellow attendee leaned over to me and whispered “I rest my case M’Lord”. Needless to say I didn’t to stay for lunch but rather hoped that Clive James might take my place since he would be far better placed than me to take fully the satirical piss out of the rest of the afternoon’s proceedings.
But in a sense it was a useful morning and the lessons of what not to do in the creation of a working environment remained with me as I set up my own company. Ten years after founding my own business, I know that the recipe for real success lies in hiring talented people. A talented analyst will create the same magic sitting in a cardboard box or a plush penthouse office suite which has been Feng Shui-ed to its gills. The same applies to a really good writer, artist, musician, designer and so on. Spot and attract the talent and the battle is won. In other words you cannot suppress talent – like water oozing out somewhere, it will find the cracks to emerge and make itself known through the line of least resistance. But that focuses on talent in a negative environment. Now if that same talent so happens to be born into an environment that nurtures and encourages that recognised potential, then the sky is the limit and great things happen. The result is spontaneous and intensely creative. It begins to gain its own momentum and it evolves over time, getting better and better as it grows into itself.
This is what I see in Annie, the teenage artist behind the glass jewellery called Funky Fusions. I actually met Annie through Scotland Farm’s head honcho hen, Paxman (I have a lot more than delicious eggs and tonnes of amusement for which to thank Paxman) and I am really happy to have Annie’s jewellery displayed on the Scotland Farm website. I don’t know where Annie’s career is going to take her, but if this jewellery is anything to go by, she is going to leave her mark in an industry somewhere, sometime in the future – perhaps fabric or interior design, perhaps fine art. Annie has everything going for her. Not only is she seriously talented with an intuitive eye for colour, texture and shape but her family are fully behind her. In short, her environment is as supportive as it could be. And I think this jewellery simply speaks for itself. I am just sorry that I cannot meet up with those Japanese CREAGEMENT gentlemen again (I would love to know what became of them) – if I did, I would like to say them: look at Annie, she epitomises the point I was trying to make fifteen years ago.