Technology as a muse: inspiring companies’ creativity and innovation

Entrepreneurship and the evolution of businesses are rooted in creative and innovative development. Increasingly, technological advances are breeding new ideas that act both as tools and as a source of inspiration. However, this gives rise to challenges and generates debate, which cannot be overlooked if we want the trio of creativity, innovation, and technology to keep realising its full potential and having a positive impact on all the sectors.

Flying drones for home deliveries, robots that serve drinks as if they were waiters, and gyms inside mirrors – these are not scenes taken from a futuristic novel or film, but actual projects that are already in development at various companies such as Amazon and F&P Robotics. These advances could not exist if it wasn’t for creativity and innovation.

Both concepts are rooted in the history of mankind, and have crossed borders and broken down barriers to further global socioeconomic development. The word creativity dates back to the 14th Century, while innovation took on its current meaning in the early 19th Century. For the European Central Bank, innovation makes it possible to increase productivity with existing resources. They point out that “as productivity rises, more goods and services are produced and the economy grows as a result.”

Despite the considerable impact of these concepts, it was not until 2017 that the UN General Assembly designated 21st April as World Creativity and Innovation Day.

The pairing has boundless potential. According to the UN’s Creative Economy Report, “creative economy initiatives designed to expand people’s options and strengthen their skills play a decisive role in making development both sustainable and transformative.”

"It’s important to encourage creativity, as it helps you work out how to use innovation in your company to stay in business"

The transformative power of creativity and innovation has reached all corners of society – while previously the terms were linked to cultural and artistic spheres, now all businesses have adapted their strategies and started to value people who can think creatively.

“It’s important to encourage creativity, as it helps you work out how to use innovation in your company to stay in business. In this respect, we’re surprised that even sectors like engineering have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years,” comment two lecturers on UNIR’s Technological Creativity and Innovation course, José María Diéguez and Laura de Miguel.

Agriculture and property are examples of how creative and innovative skills can help develop certain sectors, with the use of technology leading to the rise of industries known as agrotech and proptech. Technological stimulus is the third ever-present variable – alongside innovation and creativity, it is laying the foundations for the future.

 

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Technocreativity, a new paradigm for progress in the 21st Century

In 2012, David Alayón coined the term tecnocreativity, a philosophy that aims to apply knowledge from technological reality to reinvent its use in a creative way and apply it in any field.

Artificial intelligence (AI), big data, virtual reality, and the metaverse are all growing technologies for the development of creativity – new tools that artists and entrepreneurs have at their fingertips to advance their work.

"Technological advances allow creativity to flourish and give rise to an endless number of new products and services"

In fact, creative processes are already underway. Composer David Cope used the Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI) programme to create a melody imitating Beethoven using artificial intelligence. Another name in the world of music, Nono Ruiz – founder, CEO and Creative Director of Chicfy – revealed that he used big data to create one of his most popular advertising campaigns. He did this to spread the word about his services, analysing the most common words used by visitors to the platform, as well as Spanish listeners’ musical tastes.

Data analysis is now also being employed alongside AI in order to further countless entrepreneurial activities. Checktobuild, winner of the Entrepreneurship World Cup in 2021, uses artificial intelligence make construction projects more efficient, and offers an autonomous inspection service by combining 3D models and IoT sensors.

Creativity, innovation and technology come together in the metaverse

Artificial intelligence and big data are contributing significantly to the world of innovation. However, if there is one space that allows for technology and creativity to fuse, it is the metaverse.

Although the term appeared for the first time in 1992 in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, it was Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and cofounder of Meta (formerly Facebook), who brought it into the mainstream in 2021.

Since then, the virtual space has hosted all kinds of events, such as virtual concerts, and has become a place where many companies have launched entrepreneurial ventures and worked on creative projects. Uttopion, the first metaverse created in Spain, offers various services in this area, including buying and building spaces, and is an example of innovation creating new possibilities. “The metaverse allows you to really develop your creative side, since you’re constantly having to come up with new ideas, just like landowners,” says Soraya Cadalso, co-founder of Uttopion.

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The creative side of this is wide-ranging, “from designing virtualisations to devising pieces of infrastructure, such as bus shelters with the Call To Action (CTA) button that users can press to access a certain product,” she adds.

The metaverse, therefore, represents an opportunity for companies to connect with new audiences and carry out different activities that add value through creativity and innovation. In January 2022, for instance, the Prado Museum transferred its works into the metaverse via their own island in the Animal Crossing: New Horizons video game.

"Creativity defines your market positioning and how successful you’ll be in business or any other walk of life"

Eureka! Creativity as a driver of entrepreneurship

But it’s not just about immersive reality. In 2019, before the metaverse emerged as a melting pot for technology and creativity, the Inter‑American Development Bank listed 50 technocreative entrepreneurial projects from all manner of sectors, from music and robotics to fintech. One such example is CityWallet, an alternative to cash payments in small establishments in Venezuela, meaning you no longer need to carry any cash.

The financial institution’s analysis notes that cases like this “highlight how technological advances are erasing more and more barriers in industry, allowing creativity to flourish and give rise to an endless number of new products and services.”

In Spain, Carles Pons had his own “eureka!” moment and decided to launch something new and innovative in the children’s video game sector. This is how Kokoro Kids came into existence. It’s an emotional intelligence and cognitive stimulation app for children, where ” with the help of specialists, artificial intelligence and data analysis help to make sense of and explain the relevance of the information extracted,” explains Pons, who founded the company.

"Creativity should be considered the epicentre of development at company level, and even at the level of countries’ economic development"

Kokoro Kids has a multidisciplinary team of psychologists who come up with different activities for children’s development, and a creative team that designs how to bring these to life. “We use all the resources and ideas available to us to tackle any challenges that come our way,” explains a major representative of Kokoro Kids.

Creativity is not something you have, it’s something you learn

Kokoro Kids values the importance of cognitive development starting from an early age, as well as promoting creativity as a subject like any other. So they underline the relevance of this area to supporting personal development at the pedagogical level. But how do governmental bodies and institutions develop creativity and innovation?

“I believe that creativity should be considered the epicentre of development at a company level, and even in terms of countries’ economic development. When support is offered, there’s a strong focus on business aspects, but less of a focus on the creative side. Yet, it is critically important society’s economic development. Creativity defines your market positioning and how successful you’ll be in business or any other walk of life,” argues Soraya Cadalso, founder of Uttopion.

 

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Institutions are not the only ones involved in the process of spreading the news about the value of creativity and innovation. As José María Diéguez and Laura de Miguel of UNIR note, there is genuine interest from academia in developing both things, with a focus on the design sector. “All disciplines of design are a driver for change and a paradigm shift in the direction of creativity and innovation. It’s where the techniques that are currently being brought into fields like engineering are coming from”.

As a result, the STEM teaching method (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has become known as STEAM due to the inclusion of art. “The creativity-based pedagogical approach is still being used across all fields, and can be applied to anything from toys to numerous production processes,” the lecturers explain.

Debating creativity and innovation in the machine age

Behind all these advances, there’s an idea that originated from a creative human mind, which merges innovation with the support of technology. So is creativity an intrinsic part of being human?

Throughout history, the concept of creativity has been explored by writers like Plato, Kant and Freud. In Freud’s view, for instance, the act of creating is linked to a dreamlike state or a traumatic memory. Today, the majority of theories consider technology to be an additional factor that starts to blur the edges between innovation by humans and machines.

Ai-Da Robot previews painting arm in London 04.04.22_11

To reflect on this evolution, in 2019 Aidan Meller introduced Ai-Da, the first humanoid artist. “If computer programmes – rather than human beings – create content that goes on to shape and affect the human psyche and society as a whole, then a critical shift is occurring, and we need to discuss it,” he says.

Ai-Da is able to recite poetry by herself, but her creator does not see his work as a threat to other artists. “This isn’t about competition, but about generating a debate. We should all be concerned about the widespread use of linguistic artificial intelligence models online, about how that will affect language, and fundamentally creation in the future,” he explains.

Meller hopes that creators such as writers, filmmakers and poets will increasingly use technologies like AI, “because it’s one of the best ways to analyse and showcase the issues we’re facing at present”.

"Creativity is highly emotional and is a process that draws on mistakes and setbacks. We won’t see a machine that’s an artist until machines are programmed to fail and feel frustrated"

In a similar vein, UNIR’s Laura de Miguel and José María Diéguez stress the importance of encouraging people to come up with ideas. “Without this, human beings would be missing an important part of what makes us who we are,” they agree. “When it comes to creativity, machines can simulate certain creative mindsets. But creativity is highly emotional and is a process that draws on mistakes and setbacks. We won’t see a machine that’s an artist until machines are programmed to be curious, to empathise, to fail and to feel frustrated. At that point, we’ll know whether we need to be concerned,” they explain.

As for Cadalso from Uttopion, she admits that “it’s hard to believe that a robot could learn to be creative or to innovate, because they depend on external factors – everything that we access from our surroundings serves as inspiration for our creativity”. However, she adds that “you never know – years ago, it was also difficult to imagine virtual worlds where you could speak to your colleagues at an event, and this has now become a reality”.

In both the virtual world and on planet Earth, creativity and innovation are already the cornerstones that allow companies to keep growing and fostering economic and social progress. On World Creativity and Innovation Day, technology is an inherent part of both. The use of technology and the possibilities it opens up have become an inspiration for companies from diverse sectors as well as entrepreneurs with new ideas to build the realities of the future.

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