C2MTL: How Creativity Fuels the Success of Today’s Businesses

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DIY Lab, C2MTL 2014, @Agnieszka

Speakers at C2MTL came together in a curated collision of leaders from the tech, business, design and entertainment industries, ranging from Zappos’ innovative CEO Tony Hsieh to film director James Cameron. The “C2” stands for commerce and creativity, representing how today’s most successful companies are integrating more right-brain thinking into their overall business strategy. This year, the event was held in Arsenal, a 19th-century shipbuilding factory turned contemporary art museum located in Griffintown, Montreal’s trendiest section.

Arsenal’s layout included a central bar in the main Hangar area, a large retail section selling local Quebecois fashions and an interactive games area with a life-size Lite Brite. Outside in the Plaza Solotech bordering Lachine Canal, Fast Company magazine and other brands sponsored communal seating areas for meals and impromptu networking. C2MTL incorporated multiple “innovation zones” where groups could break out to brainstorm in unique environments.

Creative and business professionals were lining up to sit blindfolded inside a 10×10 pit filled with plastic balls. The purpose of this experiment was to group-think questions inside a sensory-limited foreign environment to see if the shift in user experience would result in a shift in conceptual thinking. One of the questions was supplied by Abigail Posner, head of strategic planning at Google. She asked: “How might we create, with only a few resources, a YouTube channel about the interplay of humanity and technology?”

C2MTL was created by the Sid Lee creative agency in cooperation with Tourisme Montreal and Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil to showcase Montreal as a creativity incubator for next-generation conferences. A primary reason behind the success of the event is its advanced meeting design, or what C2MTL calls a “creative ecosystem.” By creating all of these different innovation zones and ancillary pop-up programming, C2MTL orchestrated constant movement among attendees leading to a kind of “accelerated serendipity,” as Hsieh described it.

“There’s one trait among all successful creative people and entrepreneurs that’s very common—they’re very often ADD,” said Will Travis, CEO of Sid Lee’s New York headquarters. “We travel all over the world going to different conferences…and it’s often like sitting in a movie theater for eight hours. What we wanted to do is allow an escape, but not an escape where you’re suddenly departing the environment, so we created a lot of secondary pockets of stimulation among all of these different innovators.”

Next year’s confirmed speakers at C2MTL include Chelsea Clinton and Kevin Spacey. C2MTL is also expanding internationally to Madrid and Shanghai in 2015, as well to as an additional city yet to be named.

“The main focus this year is transformation and helping people get into the mindset where they’re comfortable to transform their agenda,” said Travis. “So, how are they not going to just stay static? How are they going to transform their businesses and their lives going forward? C2 is designed to make you change your perception about what you think you know.”

We stayed at the new 169-room ALT Hotel Griffintown Montreal.

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