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The Creative Challenge
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I ended up spending a day at Dragon-Con early in September. Dragon-Con is perhaps the largest annual convention for “geeks” in the United States. The broad focus is fantasy and science fiction; themes include movies and television, script and novel writing, space science, art and illustration, gaming, and more.


What it ends up being is a grand assembly of 35,000 highly imaginative and creative people. Many who attend come dressed as a favorite character from Star Trek, Star Wars, or lesser known television programs and movies. For some, the conference provides a chance to escape; for some, it’s serious business.


Sessions and workshops scheduled for the four-day conference featured numerous well-known actors, actresses, directors, authors, illustrators, animators, cartoonists, scientists, astronomers, and even a nuclear reactor engineer.


One session I attended featured a panel of illustrators who talked about artists who had inspired their work, but also covered business topics such as contracts and retention of creative rights. A telling remark from several panelists was that it was more difficult to do work for corporations (major publishing houses) than individuals and companies (niche publishers); corporations cared about the bottom line, companies cared about the product.  

For businesses of any size, nurturing creativity and reaping its benefits can be an elusive goal. Some say you’re either born creative or you’re not, and that the challenge is to put the right people (those with creativity) in the right jobs (leadership and innovation). Others see benefits in trying to develop and foster creativity at all levels.


Within President Barrack Obama’s recent speech on education (within the more political section), is an acknowledgment that creativity, in the form of art and music and drama, is as essential to a person’s education and development as the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.


“If we really want our children to become the great inventors and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn’t stifle innovation, they should let it thrive,” Obama stated.


For business, especially during challenging economic periods, creative solutions and approaches can be a deciding factor in whether a company lives long and prospers, or tanks. 


With the overall decline of the newsprint and housing markets, the pulp and paper industries might do well to focus resources on innovation, and in some respects, it is. The Pulp and Paper Industry Strategy Group in Australia, for example, recently published an issue paper identifying R&D and innovation challenges and opportunities for pulp and paper producers there. Closer to home, PaperMoney publisher Jim Thompson has challenged the industry to adopt a goal of reducing the weight of an installed paper machine by 50%. Achieving such a goal would certain require some creative thinking and innovation that might have compounding benefits to the industry.


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