All Great Things Need the Combination of Dust and Magic

Dust being the grind work and magic, well, magic being the power of unhindered creativity. We need both if only to remind us the importance of the other.

In our business, we live and work in a retail execution world. There is little time afforded to the luxury of broad creativity, blue sky thinking and real time agenda creation. Rather, we operate in the domain of consistency, efficiency and finely planned routine. So you can imagine that waking up on 'day one' of Stream Asia, surrounded by some of the brightest creative minds in the world is a cause for excitement, an excitement so extreme that it leads to involuntary salivation. "A kid in a candy store" is an apt cliché.

Sitting with my feet in the sand, tented fan overhead looking out over the Andaman, I wonder, with which combination of luck and good fortune I've managed to land myself among these people, people who create ideas with such fluidity and style. As my mind is wondering for this moment, a discussion begins and the sharing of ideas is ignited. It is a space that minds are brought together, a space that encourages broad creativity and blue sky thinking. And so it begins.

For those who don't know how Stream works, in brief, participants arrive to a blank canvas. No predetermined agenda, just two white boards with over 50 spots up for grabs:


The boards are the epicenter, the control tower, created and molded by the participants themselves. There's no presenting, no preaching and no pitching. In its place there's a thought, an idea or a feeling that gets bounced around by some of the most exceptionally gifted and passionate human beings in the industry. And when the sharing of informal ideas retires for the day, the evening is filled with a mash up of different learning opportunities disguised as fun events and interactive games, all rounded out with nights of diving deeper into each other's ideas that were not thought through entirely during the day.

Over the days to come I juxtapose my world of military style efficiency with beauty and magic of the creation that everyone around me does daily, and I try, somehow, to marry the two worlds into something that truly aligns all of our capabilities. A moment of magic that resonated for me was a fascinating dialogue about how and why campaigns of a traditional nature have to be static, why campaigns don't listen to the consumer and change or evolve as they go. This is the perfect platform for a place like Stream because what you have is a tempting topic with Media, Agency and Client all sitting on the same beach. A coming together.


With no aggression or finger pointing the group dissects the problems of the current situation. We absorb together, where the issues are and whose they are, and how we can get around it. I sit there decoding the acronyms flying around the tent, trying not to feel horrendously out of sorts, until the creative genius next to me subtly pokes and asks what 'ROI' means. I smile and realize we are all learning and inputting simultaneously. I regain composure and re-enter the furious debate that has now focused itself on the clients' allocation of budget as the newest hitch. By the end of the one hour session the group dissolves with a small sense of accomplishment, before heading off to the next session, ready to tear apart and re-align another discussion topic.

This is one of over 80 discussions just like this happening and that will happen simultaneously over the next two days.

There are many insights that one can learn from Stream; from the subtle to the glaringly obvious (like iPhones and water don't play well together), but if you were to ask me what my three main take-outs were, it would be these:

1. My first is a stolen phrase; all great things need the combination of dust and magic. Dust being the grind work and magic, well, magic being the power of unhindered creativity. We need both if only to remind us the importance of the other.

2. Magic is created in the informal. The discussions that happen during lunch, around a break or dare I say, during a skipped session. All are powerful areas for the continuation and stimulation of thought. They also come with the very useful byproduct of meeting new, intelligent and inspiring people from various parts of the world (or someone who lives two streets away from you in a city of 25 million people as literally happened this year!)

3. From a brilliant three minute ignite talk by @jasonoke, he managed to give me a completely new situational perspective, which is, Survivor bias. This is the normal human error of concentrating on people or things that have survived and not on the key flaws in those that did not.

As I'm continually reminded at Stream the more you throw yourself into the wholeheartedness of every aspect, from discussions to ignite talks or the tech lab to midnight madness, the more powerful tonic of creative genius you will extract from it. You will be amazed by the inspiration you will feel long after the hashtag goes dormant.

Lastly as a very proud member of a country that is so sadly misperceived in many places, I would like to announce that Stream Africa, the first Stream Africa, will be held in Cape Town in December in the wine lands. I'm literally shaking with excitement in anticipation of seeing the creative ideas shared in place as naturally magical as Cape Town. I know how excited the people of South Africa will be to welcome their counterparts from all around the world and trust that another magical space that lends itself to continued creativity, blue sky thinking and real time agenda creation will be born.

I cannot wait to see you all in Africa!