Advancing Greensboro’s Growing Culture of Creativity & Innovation. Not.

Disclaimer: This post is a summary of my opinions on the participation. If you don’t like it, here’s the definition of opinion.
I was invited as a young leader to this conference hosted today from 1:30 – 5:00PM at the Bryan Park Enrichment Center. The title was: Advancing Greensboro’s Growing Culture of Creativity & Innovation. It was sponsored by both UNCG and the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation.
As most know, I actually work outside of government, community work and the rest of it. So unlike many that were looking to skip out on work due to some conference, I was looking to get something done if it didn’t interfere with my job. But I thought it would be a worthwhile discussion on what was wrong with the community and a way to get everyone in the same room to talk about progressing forward. Those that know me, knew that I was about to raise hell about “doing” instead of “talking about doing”. Boy was I in for a treat.

I’ll start off saying that both groups, UNCG and the Bryan Foundation, have done amazing things for this community. But based strictly on the invitation and the wording, I thought I was finally going to get some people in a room to voice my opinions on “quit yapping and start acting.” So my manager let me drop half of a Monday (one of the worst days of the week) to attend this conference.
Let’s put it this way. I have limited time in the day, and I would probably have spent it working on actual work projects.
Of the 3.5 hours, 2.5 hours was spent on the facilitators singing, dancing, and doing parts from plays, and quoting from books. The rest was a discussion that I didn’t even bother to join because I knew the outcome with 2/3 of the time gone.
Let’s go over the Purpose and Intended Outcomes sheet that came with the program.

  • To re-think, refresh and re-invet actionable meanings of Leadership, Learning, Creativity, and Entrepeneurship in our personal lives and the life of our community.
    Exactly what does entrepeneurship have anything to do with leadership? I am currently involved as an entrepeneur among other things and I can tell you that it has exactly “zero” to deal with leading anything in a community. My business partner can also vouch for that. Entrepeneurs don’t create jobs. We’re out to bring an idea into existence and look for the money. Management teams create jobs after the entrepeneurs have made it successful and sold it off.
  • To connect with one another and learn from one another as leaders and citizens of a diverse, culturally gifted community.
    Learn? What? We spent two-thirds the time singing/dancing. How the heck are we supposed to learn? I come from one a very musical background (classical pianist and violinist) and I can tell you it also has nothing to do with leadership.
  • To see ourselves and Greensboro transformed and meeting the challenges of a knowledge-oriented Conceptual Age rich in opportunity for creative thinkers
    Okay, Florida’s speech has gone to our heads. You don’t change anything by talking about change and patting yourself on the back about change. Knowledge-oriented? Give me a break. Ask any local blogger what happened when we tried to get GCS to take on an open-source project that a “business partnership” would beta test and maintain and would potentially save up to fifty thousand dollars at the time.
  • To learn by doing/applying a first-class, tried-and-true, creative process (the arts-mediated methodology of the “Concert of Ideas”) to the task before us and discovering that this learning and doing can be fun, energizing and a great way to “catch the mind on fire.”
    A whole bunch of nonsense. A great leader doesn’t need to practice the arts, nor be creative. A great leader can be none of those and still lead. That’s not to say that there aren’t leaders that are creative nor those that need it. I can tell you that it’s not all “fun, energizing,” and I personally have dealt with frustration and remorse more often than naught due to the fact that people just didn’t “listen”.
  • To harvest new ideas and personal commitment to follow-up, lead and participate in next steps.
    What? Harvest new ideas? How about fixing the problems that exist already and probably have been there for the past decade? I’ve noticed one thing about these events. They’re are so many “meetings about meetings” and committees that you dread even hearing the “C” word.

In the end, I don’t know how it ended, but it was probably the worst facilitated event I’ve participated in as a young leader in this city. It would be been better off if there was a more integrated feel and less touchy feely. Some people really don’t feel comfortable singing and dancing in front of strangers, and I’m one of them. I found that if I was going to skip work and knew it was a musical/play/artsy quote, I would have skipped out to begin with and went to a play, symphony, or just listened to classical music after work. No offense to the facilitators, since It was a great performance from outstanding performing arts personnel, but the invitee email DID NOT ACCOMPLISH what it set out to do. Whatever did happen to the innovation part of the deal?
What’s more is that there was a recommended reading list. Browsing through the titles, you just had to laugh at most of the titles. No offense to the program but I find that creativity isn’t developed just as some people have talent in some arts and others do not. You can mold what you have, but not what you don’t. You can never create a Mozart, no matter how you try although you can probably work hard to become principal chair. I was back in the day in Youth Symphony. And I can tell you that I will never even be the twinkle in Mozart’s eye.
This city has come a long ways and there are great things happening. That’s for sure. Unfortunately, all it takes is one of these leaders to pull a status-quo type coup and you’ll end up building a motel chain instead of the Proximity and the last thing I want is this area to go in the wrong direction. We’ve accomplished a great deal with GTRC, the Civics Rights Museum, and all sorts of other achievements. But just attending this proved to me that there is still a long ways to go.