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Events as a Platform for Creativity and Innovation: Q&A with Charles Adler

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Technology, design thinking, and why we all need to travel more

As the co-founder of Kickstarter and founder of Lost Arts, Charles Adler is passionate about providing people with a platform to be creative and innovative. Now as a member of the Freeman Design Leadership Council, Charles will bring that same passion to the world of events and brand experiences.

We recently sat down to talk to Charles about events, technology, and the importance of world travel. Here’s what he had to say. 

Q: Your work has enabled people to explore personal creativity, technology, and innovation. Why is this important and how can events help enable that as well?

CA: Well, I am a product of the era of punk rock, which was all about the independence of self-expression. A lot of what I push for supports that same attitude. That attitude is becoming mainstream. As a result, I get excited about people doing creative work and enabling creatives to capture their own personal economy around their creativity. That could mean an artist capitalizing on his work or an entrepreneur looking to create social impact.

As for events, the way I see it is that any event is a platform for creative expression, from the artist in the back of the house producing the whole thing, to how people work together creatively to enhance the experience or potential of what can be done. You just have to view the event from the perspective of how it can enable people to do what they want to do.

Q: The concept of events as a platform — can you explain a little further what you mean by that?

CA: Sure. So, I come from a technology background. But I don’t like to view technology as a product but rather a platform. As an example, Kickstarter is a platform. Technology is involved, of course, but it is a means to another end — helping entrepreneurs get their projects off the ground. It is much more experiential than just a technology product. It is a platform for empowering invention.

Events have that potential as well. The event is a platform, and the technology, the experience design — all the different elements can be implemented in creative ways. You have all these amazing tools at your disposal to create the best event possible. By virtue of the creativity and ingenuity of the team, you can then design an experience that is appropriate to the event.

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Q: You mention your technology background. What are some of your interests today as they relate to technology, and how do you see technology impacting events and brand experiences?

CA: I have an interest in the Internet of Things. A lot of the IoT tech we talk about is very much visible: a watch, a refrigerator, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about how some of that technology becomes pervasive and visible and how some becomes invisible. At events, technology doesn’t have to be seen but can influence the experience of an attendee at an event. Or it can be an enabler for something.

For example, I recently flew 24 hours to speak at an event in Seoul, South Korea. It was an exhausting trip. What if the event organizer had used augmented reality or a hologram so that I could virtually be in Seoul while staying home in Chicago with my family? It would have been a different sort of experience for the attendees, but certainly it could be just as interesting. These are the types of things that are worth exploring. 

Q: Shifting gears for a moment, tell us about your history with design thinking.

CA: I think my attraction to design thinking is that it is actually somewhat inherent to the way I’ve always worked. It starts with a thing we commonly forget about: people. People are at the center of the process. So being able to apply the things that we produce around the outcomes we want for the people who are going to use it — it seems very commonplace for me, but is interestingly quite profound and powerful. 

Q: So what attracted you to join the Freeman Design Leadership Council?

CA: You know, the interesting thing with the Design Leadership Council is the diversity of the multiple viewpoints involved. We all have different lenses that we are looking through into a certain problem — posed to us by Freeman or by the industry or culture as a whole. And it’s these varying viewpoints that can create discussion, which creates reflection. In those moments of reflection, we build empathy for and toward the audience of the experience we are trying to create. So it’s that diversity of thought and diversity of experience that leads us down the path toward the future.

I find this to be quite interesting for a company that is 90 years old. We are in this moment in time where perhaps Freeman is just beginning; or perhaps Freeman is reinventing itself because the world around us is effectively being reinvented. I think the Design Leadership Council will bring a shift in thought and a shift in perspective that puts the individual, the human, the person at the center and from that point on, enable us to be able to design the experience of a Freeman event.

Q: Last question. You have described yourself as living life exploring the world. Why is it so important to explore the environments in which we live, and what do you learn from it?

CA: For one, as much as we like this cyborg future we are moving toward, I truly believe that nature heals. It allows us to understand why we are here, how we are here, and how we got here. We need those moments in nature in order to understand where we should go and how we should leverage technology to make the world we live in better.

On another front, I have the need to travel and I believe everybody should travel. I am fascinated with culture and cultural differences. I love exploring the world. I truly believe that anyone who has an opinion or wants to make an impact in the world — you have to go out and explore. It’s an amazing place.

Learn more about the Freeman Design Leadership Council.

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