56 posts categorized "Channel4"

March 08, 2011

Scottish Parliament Elections 2011: Is the SNP the only party with an education vision?

ScotlandVotes Education Hustings
When you listen to four politicians responsible for education and lifelong learning in their parties, it's remarkably easy to spot those with some savvy and those who choose to waffle on the clichés they think we want to hear.


At the Scotland on Sunday Education hustings this week the current Education Minister, Mike Russell, was at home sick, so the SNP's Lifelong Learning and Skills Minister Angela Constance took up the reins for the debate. She was joined by Des McNulty (Labour), Elizabeth Smith (Conservatives) and Margaret Smith (Liberal Democrats).

Angela Constance For all that she was a lastminute panel replacement, Constance was the only one speaking in terms of action, policy with the facts to back it up, with experience rooted in what she has seen herself in Scottish schools, on teacher unions' understandings of the current state of play and on the latest research, some of it commissioned by her Government over the past four years.

The others delivered platitudes, meaningless statements ("less indiscipline", "more testing", "more rigour") without any indication of what role a Government would play in achieving them.

Are we not all literacy and numeracy teachers?
Des McNulty from Labour believes that Scottish education is 'in a mess' because of decisions from the current Government and from Local Authorities themselves. He wants add 1000 extra teachers to lead on literacy and numeracy, despite the fact that when I was a teacher under his Government I distinctly remember them spearheading the approach of "every teacher is a teacher of literacy and numeracy".

 

The best practice from around the world shows that integrating higher aspirations for all children's literacy and numeracy throughout their curriculum leads to greater achievement in these areas, something that works the other way, too: skills learnt in one subject area are useful elsewhere.

That's why Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence is so vital: it's less something to be "implemented" from on high (with screeds of policy documents and advice sheets) and instead embraced from the teaching community, who, rightly, can expect more videoed examples from inside classrooms where the planning, the tactics and the teaching style can be observed in virtual-first-hand terms. A visit to the Journey to Excellence or Learning and Teaching Scotland websites shows that the current SNP Government have done just that, and the process of changing the habits of 150 years is well on its way - although it was always going to take longer than 4 years to see a wholesale 180 degree change in practice.

We're talking about upending existing notions of how we timetable, moving towards longer periods of learning, less movement around secondary schools, more practice emulating that of the primary school environment. This is what's increasing attainment in reading, writing and 'rithmetic in schools like the Stovner School in Norway, and countless other schools in the small-country systems we like to fetichise.

The opposite is what we see in England under Gove, whereby the Education Bill makes reference to "The Importance of Teaching" without looking carefully at what makes the best conditions for learning. Not only that, it does away with the key institutions for developing the quality of teachers in our classrooms.

Labour & Tory: Drive standards, test more
McNulty's other key platitude was that he wants to "drive standards with teachers". But what does that mean? Does he, along with his Conservative companion Elizabeth Smith, want to introduce "more rigourous testing, earlier, before students move on to secondary", testing the growth of our youngsters by pulling up their roots every six weeks? Do he and Smith want to increase the importance of "passing the test" later in school, and emulate the disastrous attempts to introduce "rigour" in the United States, which has left the arts, creativity and any teaching and learning outside the test out in the cold?

Greater rigour, and a return to 'traditional methods' as Smith put it, will meet only with disdain from our students, disengaging more of them at every turn. Look at what happened in Jamie Oliver's Channel 4 "Dream School" when Professor David Starkey, no doubt one of the greatest historians of his era with unbeatable knowledge, was unable to demonstrate, let alone inspire in his students, the kinds of soft skills so often berated by those who talk of "rigour": he exhibitted everything that's wrong with "rigour" in the classroom. Soft skills, which Starkey himself sees as less important than acquiring discreet areas of knowledge, would have saved him and his students much pain and embarrassment.

And engaging kids isn't about pandering to their whims. As David Price points out in his recent post on the Channel 4 series, engaging students is about appealing to their emotions, and, without that engagement of brain and emotion, deep learning cannot occur.

"I want to do something about indiscipline… [cue: tumbleweed]"
Finally, McNulty got tough: "I want to do something about indiscipline." Great. How? I do believe teachers have been trying for some time, and some of us have started to work out what it comes down to. It's about engaging students in the first place (see above, "Rigour"), involving parents more (they need to want to be involved, though - dragging kicking and screaming, parent or child, tends toward the ineffective), getting better in-class training on handling different types of students and support from better school leaders. Tell us, please, what your potential Government's role is in helping what we're trying to do already go faster, deeper, quicker.

Teaching the Teachers
While only the Tories are still daft enough now to think that Scottish students want to pay for their higher education, with Labour having changed their old position recently to align to that of the SNP, it was only the SNP who seem to have made the connection between Higher Education in general and those vital programmes that teach the teachers.

The Donaldson Report, commissioned by the SNP Government shows in no uncertain terms that higher investment in (free) teacher training is the only way to achieve long-term success in our classrooms. Not more testing. Not more textbooks. Not, as the SNP have nonetheless delivered, the smallest class sizes in Scotland's history (smaller class sizes inevitably make the teacher's job in developing youngsters easier). McKinsey's most recent research, as well as their 2007 report, repeatedly points out that teacher quality remains the sole factor in differentiating the average from the not-so-average education systems. Initial teacher education, yes, but above all continuing professional development.

This is one area, everywhere in the world, where Governments, teacher unions and teachers themselves can only ever work harder. It's mostly down to money and attitudes in the workforce - teachers need to know they can take up courses, take protected time out to reflect and do so without being told at the last minute they need to take the RE teacher's class again.

It is the SNP that has led the debate on Higher Education with the belief that higher education benefits society, not just the individual, says Angela Constance. She's right.

Invest in education and, generally, you always get more out the other side, and at least make some savings on the other budgets. Underspend or spend in the wrong places in education, and you might just break even, but the costs will re-emerge in health, justice and employment later on.

Education is the only Government spending area that really represents an investment. Everything else is spend. If we invest in education, in helping teachers improve day-by-day, the rest begins to fall into place.

[disclaimer: My company is currently working with the SNP on their election campaign's digital strategy. The views on this post are my own] 

December 18, 2010

Living in a Post-Digital World [Central Station book essay]

Censta2
Two-and-a-half years ago I joined award-winning ISO Design, as their Commissioner at Channel 4, in developing an creative art, film and photography network, Central Station. It was the hardest sell of my entire time at Channel 4: those who got it, totally got it. Those who didn't, never would. You can read and view a video about Central Station on the site.

18 months in the network has proven über successful, connecting artists from the UK with those in Berlin, the Netherlands, Spain, the US and the Far East. It has continued to reflect a quality mark that most other networks could never claim: its initial members, joining through curiosity and choice, were Turner-prize winners and hotshots of the art world.

Through some incredibly careful planning about how that mix of social network, exclusive-yet-approachable, high quality but not "up itself" vibe could be reached, the team have pulled off an incredible feat, as a browse through the Collections and Portfolios shows. The Community is throbbing.

As part of its first full year in operation, I wrote an essay for a celebratory book, which I've reproduced below:

Censta

Star Alliance Art

When I started writing and publishing audio stories on my own blog I was convinced that it would be a great way to connect with people from far-off lands from the comfort of my own proverbial sofa. Half a million airmiles later I realise I couldn't have been more wrong. The growth in our online connections has in the past five years led to only one related phenomenon: in as much as we enjoy connecting virtually to people, art and artefacts, we want to connect as much with the analogue, physical elements we discover online.

For me, the highlight of this analogue-digital playoff in 2010 must be Joanna Basford's Twitter art projects. They've captured our imaginations: send a tweet, the most transient of our digital photons, and a real living artist will transcribe those binaries into a new sort of artistic physical binary of the black and white linear for which she has become so well known. You can see what she's up to - digitally - through the 24 hour welcome. 100 special customers pay top dollar to get hold of the limited edition - analogue - prints before sharing them in all their - digital - beauty on photosharing websites like Flickr.com.

Or maybe this tension between analogue and digital is best expressed through BakerTweet, designed by London-based Poke as a means of getting their local baker to broadcast when the croissants were fresh out the oven. A constructed, physical object with a mobile transmitter stashed inside, BakerTweet represents all that is artisanal and ambiently intimate in this digital age.

As we watch less television and participate more in virtual networks of real acquaintances, friends and Friends (there is a notable difference), we have gained, as journalist and sociologist Clay Shirky puts it, "cognitive surplus". With limitless choice in the virtual world we have more mental bandwidth than we've had since before the birth of television to do with what we please. That would include hanging on the every tweet of a baker's oven, or assisting in the creation of a new artwork by an artist hundreds of miles away.

The digital world lets us find these physical products more easily and we can attempt to experience them through photograph, visualisation, video or audio. But when it comes to the physical, the tangible and the experiential of the physical world, there is still a sense of scarcity, especially if the product is one of a creative or artisanal hand.

Central Station really is the meeting place of these two worlds. Behind almost every pixel is that scarcity of the physical piece. Behind every piece the even more scarce creator and maker. This community has managed to weave these two worlds together, and has managed to do so while both celebrating the real world of art, film and making stuff, and harnessing the best of the slightly transient, virtual world of click here, type there.

We can all be in each other's pockets digitally if we want, but, frankly, when the bread comes out the oven or the artwork receives its final stroke of the pen, we want to feel, meet, eat or see the physical, real, tangible product of their craft. As an artist, that's incredibly reassuring. As a bystander, it's exciting to know that the digital world will only help me get closer to the things I didn't already know I wanted to experience first hand.

Prints, above, from KavanStudio. View their portfolio.

October 09, 2010

Seven Days: How would teachers interact (and react) to your students' discussions about you online

Seven Days
There's an interesting experiment happening on Channel 4 (UK) at the moment, which makes me wonder what learning, schools and teachers might borrow from nearly-now nearly-live interaction between audience (students, parents, community) and "reality subjects" (educators, school management).

The show reveals the life of a score or so of normal people living in Notting Hill are followed each week by the cameras, their week cut up into one hour of docu-drama, and broadcast that night. The difference with most docs is that the flow of the programme, week-to-week semi-live, allows the "characters" to interact with their public, through the online site, Twitter and Facebook, but also through real-life interactions in cafés and the street. It's called Seven Days.

Matt Locke, helping to mastermind the online-TV mix here, noticed something the other night that he'd never spotted before:

About half-way through the latest episode of Seven Days, one of the characters, Cassie, took out her laptop and started talking about how people were talking about her on the show’s website. Sitting at home, monitoring the performance of the site on my laptop, I saw a huge spike in traffic as thousands of other people logged onto the site to see what all the fuss was about. This spike was higher than we’d seen the week before, when the rush of people coming to the site on launch night crashed the servers, and even higher than the biggest peak we saw in the final series of Big Brother earlier this year. We’d clearly hit on something, but what was it?

This is new for television. It's less new for live conferences where panelists interact with audience for real and on Twitter, responding and adjusting as appropriate.

It would be totally revolutionary, and slightly uneasy-feeling, for the vast majority of teachers. How would you react if students were criticising, feeding back or applauding your professional - and potentially personal - life online, raw and ready for you to react to the next time you see them online or in person? For years students have done this behind closed doors, or on the way home.

As we enter an era of online group spaces arguably being the most comfortable fora for young people to discuss their lives, I wonder how this would jar or excite.

September 02, 2010

Quotabl.es - finally our quotations history gets the home it deserves

Quotabl.es Quote
My good chums at Mint and Channel 4's Adam Gee have come up with a beauty of a service, finally providing a beautiful, slick home for the world's best quotations. It's a brilliant resource for any student of history, English language, Classics, science, or PowerPoint 101.

Never again will I have to suffer inaccurate citing in keynote presentations, or dinner parties where people quaff fine wine while stealing great one-liners with the catch-all "I don't know where this comes from, but...".

Quotabl.es Quotabl.es is born.

Says Mr Gee on his blog this morning:

Ever tried looking for a quotation online (of the literary as opposed to the insurance variety)? Wasn’t much fun was it? Not that easy to find what you want. And just how accurate was it? And why does it look like the site was made by a geek with no design skills in his stinky bedroom?

But you love great quotes don’t you? On your Facebook profile. In that presentation. You know, those ones you keep in that file – the one on your old computer. They’re everywhere – on the tube, in that advert, on that building, in that caff.

So why don’t we get the quotation sites we deserve and desire? Although there are several in the Alexa top 5000 most are labours of love, evolutions, accretions of amateur solutions stuck one on top of another like the proverbial sticking plaster.

It's even more close to my heart since this brazen little startup is based out of Glasgow and, I feel, it's providing an education service. Where can you see yourself using this? What do you want the team to do for you this coming year? What toys do you want them to offer you this Christmas? Don't spend too long answering here - jump over and have a play now. Or, as Spike Milligan would have said:

“Well we can’t stand around here doing nothing, people will think we’re workmen.”

December 09, 2009

BT & Google's Video Delivery Network for ISPs... and schools?

One more broken television
Media Guardian reports on a service due for launch in Spring 2010 from British Telecom (BT) and Google, allowing Internet Service Providers to host and stream video from their own networks, rather than using the network which is increasingly over-burdened by high quality streaming from BBC iPlayer, 40D, Hulu and, of course, Google's own YouTube and video services:

BT Wholesale is working with BT Retail and two other ISPs – understood to be Orange and Virgin Media – as well as the BBC, Channel 4 and Five, on a network called Content Connect. The idea behind the service is to store popular video content on an ISP's network, rather than relying on the internet, which is becoming increasingly congested, for the delivery of online video.

A logical extension for those in education who can turn the vision into reality, is that schools and education authorities are or can be Internet Service Providers to their institutions. In the same way as Scotland national intranet, Glow, hosts content on a network of cache servers throughout Scottish schools, a Local Authority or small country could ramp up the potential for downloading and sharing high quality video 'online' by not going online at all. Use overnight downtime to download prime learning content overnight to a local area network, and then deliver it quickly at the point of need during the day.

Previously, only large-scale enterprise could envisage this way of borrowing content on the cheap to serve it later at faster speeds. As a service provided by a larger scale programme such as that proposed by BT and Google, the economies of scale they will earn let the rest of us enjoy fast video at a reasonably priced premium.

Could it really change anything?

But, given that television was promised (wrongly) to be the saviour of learning in the 60s, how would you change things in your learning and your students' learning to take advantage of such an opportunity? Are classrooms full of plugged in kids, akin to the average open-plan office of iPod-entangled drones poking at Outlook, what we're after? Or would fast-streaming video be a significant enough innovation to change pedagogy, curriculum and school spaces beyond recognition?

Photo CC Kevin Steele

November 27, 2009

On leaving Channel 4

Channel 4
About 18 months ago I was made an offer I could not refuse: to help shape the startup of a £50m innovation fund, 4iP, with Europe's most creative public service broadcaster, Channel 4.


As 4iP's first recruit in the summer of 2008, I worked at opening the route to over £7.5m of that public co-investment funding, building on the initial legwork work of Director of Nations and Regions, Stuart Cosgrove, and colleague Claire McArdle. I've turned Letters of Intent into over £1m of real green money invested in digital media companies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North East. I've helped stimulate everything from some of the finest Twitter-bashing to some of the most serious digital media debate I've ever seen, on the growing 38minutes community.

The model works. And now it has come for me to move on, and try something different.

4iP has been simultaneously a hoot and one of the most demanding gigs out there, but I'm happy with what I've helped achieve. Besides making the vision a reality, I'm most proud of the products I've shaped from their 20 word elevator pitches into working, clickable, running code. I'm currently in the middle of an announcement and product launch spree running right up to Christmas:

This week I was frankly delighted with the reaction from the political, journalistic and social media savvy echelons about our investment in Slugger O'Toole, one of the most 4-like means through which to open the political debate. In the same breath we've let MirrorMe out of the lab and into Facebook, showing what the broadcaster of Embarrassing Bodies and Ten Years Younger can do in the same space with a standalone web app.

The arts platform Central Station was a concept on which 4iP was explained and sold, and this month we published the code that makes it a real, living and vibrant community of both aspiring and Turner-prize-winning talent. When we started out in earnest looking at how this thing would actually function it was a far cry from the nascent but impressive collections and communities we see there now: not all two-week old projects can claim a Turner Prize winner as one of their first supporters and members.

FestBuzz was, by four days at least, the world's first Twitter crowdsourced review site, and I'm still convinced this technology from the leading School of Informatics in Edinburgh will be the focus of innovation throughout 2010. Sentiment detection went mainstream this summer thanks, partially, to FestBuzz.

I was not-so-secretly keen to engage its competitor's creators, Blonde, in helping build discussion around and use of the You Booze You Looze iPhone app which we hope to launch next week. Along with MirrorMe, both are designed to cajole, shock and laugh us into thinking seriously about what we're putting down our throats and up our noses this Christmas.

Nearly all the companies I've worked with share something in common. With the exception of Central Station's ISO, who are big enough and ugly enough to fight their corner in a London-based commissioner's office, none of them would have had an easy time getting under the nose of a traditional broadcaster. Having a commissioner "down the road" has led many more people through Channel 4's doors in the digital media space. A minority, of course, were actually commissioned, but most left with some feedback, encouragement or a contact elsewhere who would be interested. I know of at least one major investment in a product that was too young for us, but which was perfect for another broadcaster and is now in early stages of a major commission. Having the chance to have informal chats with a regional commissioner, passionate about independent commercial production of media with a public purpose, has been a boon.

Both represent what I think 4iP has achieved most in a recession-bound digital economy. Digital Goldfish, discovered in January in a Dundee office too titchy for their 7" CEO, has now quadrupled in size and in confidence, claiming one of their games as Apple's Top 30 all-time bestselling. Ideonic is a games company out of the unlikely setting of Middlesbrough (Channel 4's Phil and Kirsty declared this the worst place to live in Britain not so long ago). They still wanted to work with us, and we were delighted to make a significant investment in a firm where no member is older than the CEO - and he's only 25.

I am going to spend the next four weeks wrapping up one of my most exciting commissions to date, before going on to do something just as exciting, but with fewer 4.30am starts, fewer 400 mile commutes and, regrettably, fewer airmiles.

As someone once said, it's been emotional.

November 23, 2009

Can you help shape the future of informal learning? Apply within.

Mass of a question mark
A group of folk who I believe are spearheading informal learning in the most unlikely of ways are looking for some help, and edu.blogs.com readers are almost certainly likely to be able to help.

Do you undertake some informal learning already?
Do you want to do more informal learning but find you can't: lack of time, motivation or space?

If you answer yes to either question and want to help out a gang of really tuned-in people, please leave a comment on this post, making sure to include an email address, and someone will be in touch shortly. And thanks - you'll be participating in one of the most exciting informal learning opportunities going.

Picture credit: What is the mass of a question mark?

October 16, 2009

Channel 4 signs worldwide-first YouTube deal: watch our telly on your interweb box

Channel 4 YouTube
YouTube and Channel 4 (who pay my mortgage) have signed a pioneering content deal which will make the broadcaster’s original programmes available on demand, in full and free-of-charge via YouTube in the UK. By early 2010 all of our current programming and about 3000 hours of archive will be available to search and view at your leisure.

This is big news, as it marks the first time that a broadcaster anywhere in the world has made a comprehensive catch-up schedule available on YouTube, providing Channel 4 with additional advertising inventory and reach: YouTube last week announced it was serving over 1 billion video streams every day.

Under the terms of the deal, Channel 4 will make its 4oD video-on-demand ‘catch-up’ service of new programmes available via YouTube shortly after television transmission, including series that have already proved particularly popular with online audiences such as Skins, Hollyoaks, The Inbetweeners and Peep Show. YouTube users will also be able to access around 3,000 hours of full length programming from the Channel 4 archive at any given time, including shows like Brass Eye, Derren Brown, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Teachers and many others.

The partnership runs for an initial term of at least three years and the two parties will share advertising revenues on an agreed formula. The deal will create significant value for Channel 4 and its independent production partners, generating additional revenue to invest in creating high quality, original content.

Channel 4's will have a branded presence on YouTube and will be able to sell advertising around its content on the site. The agreement also allows Channel 4 to sell advertising around some non-Channel 4 content on YouTube for the first time, expanding the amount of inventory available to its sales team and bringing its considerable expertise in advertising around full length TV content to the YouTube platform. It will help Channel 4 develop its advertising sales proposition in digital, including the use of YouTube’s demographic targeting tools to target advertising against Channel 4 content on YouTube.

The deal builds significantly on Channel 4 and YouTube’s existing partnership; Channel 4 was the first broadcaster to sell pre-roll advertisements on YouTube clips, and the first UK broadcaster (before iPlayer) to put all its programmes online for viewing on demand with 4oD.

August 10, 2009

FestBuzz: Crowdsourcing reviews from Twitter

FestBuzz The 2009 Edinburgh Festivals are all about tweeting as newspapers cut back on their reviewer staff. Earlier this year in my work at 4iP I commissioned FestBuzz, a really clever piece of artificial-intelligence-sentiment-detection-twitter-search, to make sense of what people were tweeting about each show in all seven Festivals.

Go help a great Edinburgh startup by telling all your mates about it and, if you're at the Festival, tell us what you think of the shows you're at ;-)

FestBuzz analyses what Twitter users are saying about Festival shows and creates crowd-sourced reviews and "five star" ratings that are available on the site or through its API. As printed reviews in traditional media start to emerge, the site will help users identify the differences between the views of established reviewers compared to the Twitterer on the street using its combination of reviews and star ratings.

It allows users to get to the bottom of the ‘word on the tweet’ and get honest reviews of shows by the people who have forked out cash to see the show.

Fresh features are being tested and will be released in the remaining three weeks of the Festival, and provide a means for 4iP - and others - to test how this kind of technology is used by the public, and their demand for it. So far, #edfest tweeting is proving, in some cases at least, to be as entertaining as the shows our twitics are watching.

Why is 4iP investing in FestBuzz?

The site and API is being produced by Affect Labs Ltd, a small Edinburgh University-based startup led by founder Jennie Lees. It was funded after a call-to-action earlier this year around how the artistic spread of nearly 70,000 performances in August could be made easier to navigate. Thanks to its unique back-end technology, FestBuzz is able to accurately work out what shows Twitterers-turned-critics are talking about and how they feel about them with even the most sporadic, misspelt of Tweets.

In addition, users who join FestBuzz don’t need to use special hashtags or keywords to have their messages picked and turned into a star-rated review, making the site incredibly easy to use and picking up the maximum number of tweeted reviews automatically.

As well as the chance to make the Festivals more accessible, FestBuzz is amongst a couple sites putting the traditional notion of the "Expert Critic" under the spotlight. 4iP is also investing in a small, young startup getting its technology out into the public domain for the first time, and hopefully helping to stimulate some more action in the future from this and similar companies.

"FestBuzz was set up specifically to identify hidden gems, looking for hotbeds of emerging talent that are generating buzz on Twitter but slipping past professional critics," says Affect Labs' Jennie. "Our aim is to help people discover shows that they might otherwise overlook, and provide a true, honest opinion that reflects the thoughts of the masses, not just a few people. Having produced several Festival shows in the past, I'm all too aware how a published review can make or break a show; we're trying to level the playing field."

Crowdsourced reviews and revenue potential

FestBuzz is the first live application of Affect Labs’ core sentiment detection technology and, like all 4iP projects, we were keen that it have the potential to support itself into the future. The application can generate revenue through an analytical dashboard that shows performers, venues or show management how their performances were received each day. Affect Labs is also happy to make the API available to partners who want to use it in interesting ways on their own sites and services.

FestBuzz is one of several Twitter-related offerings that have sprung up in the days before the world’s largest arts Festival in the Scottish capital. Some only go as far as showing you pretty simple ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ stuff around shows, or providing summarised reviews from the many tweets we’re expecting throughout the Festival. Any activity FestBuzz or these other sites stimulate around critiquing shows on Twitter only helps make the aggregated reviews better. Critically, though, the age of crowd-sourced reviews has arrived and is being lapped up by Festival-goers.

Follow FestBuzz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/festbuzz

Visit the site for crowdsourced reviews during the Festivals: http://festbuzz.com/

August 06, 2009

Why it's important to (want to) know Where Good Ideas Come From

Hidden Good Ideas

This is the first of eight posts on the theme of Where Good Ideas Come From. Pic from Evil Erin, who was looking for some good ideas in her roommate's bed.

The creative industries in the UK alone are worth some £70bn each year, about 8% of GDP and growing at about double the rate of the rest of the economy, made up by everything as diverse as television production to game-making, book-writing to advertising, public relations to jewellery. For the past year I've been contributing to this industry, learning the art and science of commissioning new media ideas, turning internet, mobile and gaming ideas from paper dreams to running code realities.

In the workplace, we have a variety of processes, individual talents and skills to ensure that most of these dreams turn into good ideas in the real world, from designing efficient challenging structures through which people pitch their ideas, to the knack of producing a contract that not only makes sense but is fair to all parties. A fair dose of gut instinct and knowing the shifting sands of the vast new media landscape contribute to building, hopefully, more excellent ideas than fairly good ones. The processes hopefully eliminate the really dodgy ones altogether.

But given the aims of the initiative with which I'm working - Channel 4's Innovation for the Public - to change people's lives for the better, to have a lasting impact, to achieve technological and social firsts, and to do so with a trademark slug of trouble, finding and generating good ideas in the first place is something that, if we could define it, would make life a lot easier.

Knowing Where Good Ideas Come From in any walk of life leads not just to a more pleasant experience in life, but a better experience for others and a more profitable life for everyone.

Knowing what makes an idea good is one thing. 95% of ideas get rejected, a large number fairly swiftly and, say, 5-10% after having looked in more detail at the issues involved. Few, if any, seem to appear elsewhere suggesting that either the ideas are too costly to get off the ground, leaving a Government or private investor struggling to see their investment have the desired tangible result, or they are cheap to produce but aren't seen as Good Ideas by the intended users or participants.

Knowing what we could do to improve those conditions of creativity is another goal, perhaps more tangible. These conditions, these physiological, physical and mental places are Where Good Ideas Come From.

What's important to consider, though, is that "being creative" is not, as is often the assumed case, a result of some form of change management. All too often, change management and the overpriced consultancies that help you get from there to here are in the business of selling the change of a more creative company or self. If tapping into creativity is reduced to change management, then we are indeed in for a rocky journey. Only 30% of change management programmes achieve any change at all, let alone the intended one and not necessarily a change towards a more creative one. Creativity is something most of us can unearth in the right circumstances with enough time, effort and stamina to see us through the darker moments of our "crappy ideas" being mocked or left out to dry.

And, of course, some of us (most of us?) tend to come up with fairly crappy ideas most of the time, and that's alright, seeing if they work before moving onto the next one when we realise we were heading down the wrong path. Not just in the world of new media and technology, though, is the potential for heading down too many different paths and tangents at once so ripe. Never have the options opening up been so great, the tools at our creative disposal so varied. Creativity is attempting to go exponential when often our more analogue brains and bodies aren't really in a mood for catching up.

With this, change management, that sudden jolt of inspirational energy (or brush of quasi-guru-like consultant fluff), is even less appropriate a model on which to base an rebirth of creativity in our organisations. As George Church put it:

"In a changing world, inaction can be the radical 'action'" (cited by Tim O'Reilly)

Or, as Euan Semple cribbed it:

"Don't just do something: stand there."

It is no happenstance that our first main areas of investigation of Where Good Ideas Come From are nearly all about time (and the lack of it) and the need for us to stand still, do nothing and drink it in. Someone, I can't remember or Google who it was, once said that they were in the habit of taking a day return flight, at least but no more than four hours long (the time of the laptop battery) in order to get things done without interruptions. Sometimes it's just the practice of regularly, say, every Tuesday morning, of taking a flight at 35,000ft to see the world move by a little slower and take it all in, before joining the land at a seemingly faster speed later. Of course, that's not really how it works. We all fly faster when we're taking in the overall view of things at 35,000ft and that seems slower than when we're on the ground, 'only' going at 10mph at sealevel but things seeming too fast to take in, let alone control.

Nor is creativity some elusive black art available only to the few, while the rest of us trudge on with our lemming-like routine. As Colin Anderson, MD of Denki Games in Dundee, puts it:

Today we run the risk of thinking of creativity in the same way as we once thought of electro-magnetism – magical, unknowable, a black art. Poppycock, I say again! It’s a series of deliberate choices – some serial, some parallel, some conscious, some sub-conscious – made by assessing the values of many variables simultaneously through the filters of knowledge, experience and aesthetic appreciation. More variables than we can currently define and measure perhaps, but that doesn’t make it magic. I subscribe to the school of thought that says “art is a science with more than seven variables”, and from where I’m looking creativity is precisely that. (emphasis added)

There are indeed more than seven variables to creativity and therefore knowing Where Good Ideas Come From. I'm going to make an attempt to understand what some of those variables are and would ask for your help in the comments to fill in the inevitable chasm-like gaps.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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