Stream: creativity, curiosity, celebration, discovery and beginnings
"The centre can easily look after order; it is not so easy to look after freedom and creativity. The centre has the power to establish order, but no amount of power evokes the creative contribution." E F Schumacher, Small is Beautiful
Geography never leaves you. Perhaps it’s because we are fundamentally people of place. Our feet are always on the ground somewhere, even if we’ve managed to transcend some of the limits of physical place with virtual platforms that create opportunities for broader and wider connections and communities. A stream is one of those basic building blocks of geography - anyone who’s ever been within 5 paces of a geography textbook could guess that there’s at least one chapter on water, rivers, streams, gullies, springs. Water is one of those incredible components of our world - it’s at the same time innocuous droplets that form and disappear from surfaces, and at the same time it’s fundamental for life - yet if there is too much or too little, it’s devastating. In different energy states, it can do different things, and it can move through our environments without leaving much of a trace, or it can carve through mountain ranges and create rivers that bring thriving, dynamic and diverse ecosystems into being.
So when I got an invitation to join Stream 2022, an unconference that brings together a group of disruptive thinkers, all curious about the world and what could be possible, I was intrigued, and mainly excited. I wasn’t wrong.
Stream captures all the dimensions of its water namesake; small and big, imperceptible and powerful, incremental and stepwise shifting, full on and light touch. It’s an incredible worked example of creating space in the midst of the hectic, diary driven life to free your mind, to encounter the other in all types of ways (with different people, industries, settings and formats), and let ideas run to find connections between the dots, and challenge and disrupt your status quo.
The unconference format is so simple and yet extraordinary. It manages to bring together structure with focussed times (like 6 slots a day for parallel discussions on topics chosen and led by delegates), as well as creating opportunities for space and serendipity (like sport in the mornings led by delegates, collaborative craft, midnight cooking madness - the activities that absorb you and yet free up your mind which can create connection and shared experiences that fuel future conversations). There was both the proverbial and literal blank sheets of paper and free time to sit and have a coffee, as well as the planned sessions that gave specific topics air time (like the ignite talks (you can see mine here) where speakers have 15 slides that automatically transition every 15 secs, and 4 minutes to speak on one topic - just one rule, no pitching!). The unconference also manages to blend the familiar with the new, 80% of delegates are first timers, which is a great leveler for starting conversations.
I met curious fascinating people, from many different paths in life. I learnt about venture capital and the journey of entrepreneurs and start ups, about client/agency dynamics, about gen Z and the ways we explore and engage with our world, about funding models for news, and about people’s hopes and fears for education and learning. One core principle remained throughout - the importance of creativity, of imagining the future, and how in so many different settings, industries, countries, there’s a need for disruptive thinking that is seeking to make a difference, create community and change the world for the better
So Stream couldn’t be a more fitting name. Thank you to the amazing WPP Stream team for creating the most brilliant three days, thank you to everyone who led discussions, asked questions, braved the ignite stage to share their ideas and the extravaganza stage to share their talents, who cooked, who were willing to say hi and share their journey. I hope that our paths continue to cross and that this particular stream leads to mighty rivers that create, sustain and nurture thriving communities in every walk of life.