Creative Mornings

Creative Mornings is a once a month free lecture series that includes a free breakfast. Generally speaking, they insist that it must be on a Friday morning and there are some other restrictions with which hosts are expected to comply.

It is intended to foster creativity, but I think it is intended to foster that in a way that is business oriented. It isn't just intended to help people be creative. It seems to be intended to help people make a living in the creative sector.

Creative Mornings currently has 223 chapter cities but 18 are abandoned. That may change this month as they expect to be reviewing new applications this month, if I understand correctly.

It took me a few weeks to put together a spread sheet with info about their chapter cities, but I think nothing changed on their end during that time. There are only 74 cities with fewer than 500,000 residents, which is likely because they originally only accepted applications from cities with at least 500,000 people.

The smallest chapter city is Lac Mégantic, Canada which has fewer than 6000 residents. Most cities are quite a lot larger than that. It was an active chapter for some time but is currently abandoned.

So if you are in a small community, it is possible to apply and be accepted to this program, but it may not be a great fit for a lot of small communities because it was originally designed with quite large cities in mind. Estimates from various source materials suggest that you can expect to spend around 40 hours to 50 hours per month to participate as a host in their program.

That's a fairly large commitment for a single individual to make. It comes out to around 10 or so hours per week and you also need to come up with sponsors to provide a free breakfast.

That may just not really be worth it in a really small community. There may not be enough payoff for the time, effort and other costs involved, both for the individual serving as host and for the community as a whole.

So it might make more sense to read through their materials and take some cues from them and also make use of the wealth of materials they have produced over the years, much of which is freely available online. For example, here are just a couple of their videos I have watched and particularly enjoyed and/or got a lot out of them:

Priya Parker: The Art of Gathering

F*ck You, Pay Me

My impression is they essentially provide free education and networking opportunities to local creatives. The free breakfast strikes me as a really good idea that fits with a bunch of research and principles I've been exposed to over the years.

Eating together helps people bond. Feeding people something healthy can help them focus and providing a meal can help people carve some time out of their busy schedule to make room for the event.

If you are in a small community, you could curate some of their videos that you feel are especially pertinent to your local creative community. Or you could put together a pared down variation of their program (without using their copyrighted name "Creative Mornings") where you provide coffee and tea and people can bring their own food if they so desire or something like that.

Networking opportunities are a good thing and they tend to be in somewhat short supply from what I gather. There is a concept called "The strength of the loose tie" which indicates that people who are out of work are most helped by asking acquaintances for tips on job openings, referrals, etc.

Asking strangers tends to not be helpful because they know nothing about you and don't trust you. Asking your closest friends and family tends to be unhelpful because they are less likely to know people you don't know of at all and also less likely to know of openings that you haven't heard of at all.

So talking with people who know you somewhat tends to be where you find fertile ground for getting paid work. This is one of the reasons networking is important.

Prior to the pandemic lock down, I've been to a local once-a-month creative gathering called First Fridays. They provided live music and free food and an evening time slot for visiting local art galleries that are typically open only during the day, from what I gather.

I don't know what their goals are or what it cost them or what their metrics for "success" were. I wasn't some kind of insider and this isn't intended as criticism of them per se. It's just a jumping off point for talking about some concepts.

I attended hoping to network and I felt like it didn't do much for me in that regard. I have no idea if others felt it was good for them in that regard or not. It could just be a "personal issue" as they say.

But I've participated in online forums a lot over the years and the way you get people talking is you give them a thing to talk about. But you also don't want to restrict conversation too much. You want to treat it like a jumping off point or icebreaker, not a cage they can't leave.

Being overly controlling about "We are just here to talk about X and we will come down on you like a ton of bricks if you stray from the topic" tends to kill the conversation and fails to foster social connections. But having no topic to focus on makes it hard for people to start a meaty conversation at all.

Talking about yourself to total strangers tends to be uncomfortable and can be counterproductive if the goal is some kind of professional development. Professional settings shouldn't be approached the same way that "personal" socializing is approached. It's not a date and being too personal can be actively problematic.

So it can be helpful to have a stated purpose for gathering and a topic to focus on to give people a place to start. That can help get conversation flowing and have it be the right kind of conversation for actually accomplishing stuff.

A lecture series aimed at providing on-going free education and professional development means that if they do no networking, they still haven't wasted their time. This takes the pressure off, which ironically tends to make it easier to effectively network in part because it gives people a thing in common to discuss without getting overly personal and so forth.

So if you already have some program in your area that is similar to First Fridays and you aren't entirely satisfied with the performance, you could take a few cues from Creative Mornings to try to up your game and see if that gets more satisfactory results.

Creative Mornings has been operating virtually during the pandemic, so you can borrow cues from them even while doing Zoom meetings and the like. You don't have to wait until public gatherings are allowed again to start borrowing ideas from their program.

Their Manifesto currently encourages hugs and high fives. I have no idea if they have plans to update that for a post-covid world. I'm only mentioning it to say "Pick and choose what makes sense to you, whether from their program or another. Don't treat anything they do as gospel."

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