How economic crisis breeds creativity. Why the secret to future proofing is taking risks and innovating now.
Let’s talk World Wars because it is a fun topic and there is a clear link to the brand and design world. No it is not, and no there is not, but let’s do it anyway.
Let’s play a game instead. Ask yourself: who lost World War II? A pretty easy answer. I have seen enough Brad Pitt movies to know the Nazis were bad and Germans didnt fair so well. Now let’s expand the question a little further.
Name three countries who lost World War II? A little harder but there are three pretty clear losers if we dig a little deeper. Hold onto these three countries in your head while we ask our final series of three questions. What country is responsible for the world biggest luxury car brands. What country is widely acknowledged as the global fashion and leather goods leader, and what country grew to global technology dominance throughout 80’s and 90’s. The last is a little more obscure but if you answered the previous questions correctly you will have your answer already sitting in your head.
Germany is home to Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, and Skoda. Italy is considered the cultural home of fashion and we can even throw a few luxury automotive manufacturers on the previous list for good measure. Finally, Japan is the home of Sony, Nikon, Canon, Sega, Nintendo, and once again Toyota and therefore Lexus.
When we are hungry and our blood sugar levels drop evolution has developed a condition we know as hangry, telling us it is time to look for food sources a little more aggressively. Time to consider eating that lion now we have exhausted the berries. Meanwhile there is nothing like need to encourage innovation. When there is nothing to lose we shift from risk mitigation to necessity. You have to risk it to get the biscuit.
These three countries exited the war with very little including their pride and dignity. They had to start again. They had to get proactive to clear their ethical and financial obligations to the remainder of the world. They refashioned factories, they experimented with cloth and metal, they found ways to busy themselves and in doing so build the industries necessary to rebuild their economies. Soon these debts were paid but why shut down the factories now. They had economic momentum and as physic principles state, an object in motion tends to remain in motion.
With some obvious localized exceptions, we now live in the longest period of peace known to the human species. We have learnt that there is huge value in stable political states. We now lean on diplomacy to maintain this stability and global markets. To a large extent this has been very effective until it doesn’t.
Again, we have all seen enough Leonardo DiCabrio movies to know 2007 was a bad year for financial market. The economic crisis almost destroyed the global economy. That was until the governments who were in a position to step in stepped in. The banking system was too big to fail. But not all governments we big enough to save their economies. There were countries like Finland. The lesser known story goes like this, while a relatively small player in the global banking market, banking represented a huge percentage of the local economy. The difference here was while the banks were too big to fail, the government was not big enough to step in and stop this fail. The Finish economy failed. They went broke.
Just as there was an incubation period before Germany, Italy, and Japan once again grew into global authorities, Finland also went through an incubation period. Their people were forced to experiment and innovate. To play. To accumulate expertise in obscurity. 15 years downstream and Finland and their creative are living through a modern day renaissance. The music, design, art, and innovation produced by this relatively small population is receiving global acclaim.
Now let’s compare this to countries such as Australia. Referred to the lucky country by many, Australian has lived through recent crisis relatively unscathed. Our governments boast year on year growth. Years since our previous recession. Great news for all or are we pushing our problems downstream. Are we build resilience and innovation amongst all this comfort.
There is also a flip side to this prosperity. Australia is widely considered to be a risk adverse country. Make senses. Why risk it when you have plenty of biscuits. Marketing teams and entrepreneurs alike bang their heads against the wall regularly. A great idea, truly different, but we are going to go with the safe option