Canadian C2 Conference Previews the Future with Commerce and Creativity

By: Lee Rickwood

April 28, 2017

Organizers in Montréal are preparing for what’s been dubbed a business conference, only different.

In part, that’s because it comes from a group whose accomplishments include “proudly wasting time and money since 1993”.

That’s a playfully boastful tagline at Sid Lee Collective, part of the global creative services firm Sid Lee, headquartered in Montréal.

The event known as C2 Montréal was first imagined by Sid Lee and the theatrical entertainment company Cirque du Soleil six years ago as a way to explore the dynamic potential of “commerce + creativity” to help reinvent the way we do business. Since then, it has grown into a multinational, multidisciplinary, multi-day event with talks, workshops, extreme brainstorming sessions, technology showcases, meet-ups, performances and related festivities.

Combining creativity with commerce, entertainment with artificial intelligence, the event’s also been described as “challenging conventions” by The Economist, and “a business conference unlike any other” by Harvard Business Review.

This year, conference themes or Ecosystems include talent, marketing, entertainment, cities and identifying the next big breakthroughs for humanity. The event also adds for the first time a dedicated stream of activities related to artificial intelligence, the AI Forum, building on the growing innovation hub for AI in the city and this country (and the growing international interest in acquiring Canadian AI companies).

Canadian C2 Conference Previews the Future with Commerce and Creativity
The AI Forum is an opportunity to explore innovative solutions, in an AI-First context, for anything from biomed to automation to entertainment. Photo ©-Barbara-Haemmig-de-Preux-C2-MTL-14 -05-22-2012

The announced C2 Montréal 2017 speaker lineup has a number of established and early stage technologists, marketers, thought-leaders and industry representatives from Canada and around the world, perhaps highlighted by video-game icon Jade Raymond and Steve Wozniak, inventor of the personal computer.

Now, it has to be pointed out that one of the challenging aspects of this particular convention is, for many, its cost: the regular three-day experience is $2,995.

C2 Montréal is also receiving $1.5 million in financial assistance from the federal government to hold its annual international business and creativity conference. That comes in the form of a two-year, non-repayable grant under the Canadian Economic Development fund’s Quebec Economic Development Program.

So another unique and more accessible aspect of the conference is the generosity with which organizers share “prep materials”.

From short text blurbs to full article links to complete podcasts and more, the themed C2 website offers up a real chance to explore the topics and learn more about the presenters who will actually be at the sixth edition of C2, to be held May 24, 25 and 26 at Montréal’s Arsenal art contemporain, a huge exhibition and gallery space.

Whether you are preparing to head to Montréal to immerse yourself in the event, or whether the arrangements are just too dear, being able to “Dig Into This Year’s Themes with These Five Reading Lists” is like having a free passport to great ideas, inspiration, information and insight.

Just one surprising example: in the Talent section, having learned about some Ideas for a Happy Office, there is a link to a powerful new documentary film and social movement about the power of women, and women in power.

Canadian C2 Conference Previews the Future with Commerce and Creativity
C2 will be held later in May; before then, on May 10th, people will gather on 50 50 Day in a global conversation about what it will take to get to a more gender-balanced world in all sectors of society: business, politics, culture, home, and more.

Several podcast links have been chosen with the C2 Montréal 2017 Ecosystems theme in mind, and they can lead to literally hundreds of shows ranging in length from a couple of minutes to an hour or more.

Quick-hit Jump Start sections, and more in-depth Dig Deeper links, are provided for each of the main themes, including talent, marketing, entertainment, cities and identifying the next big breakthroughs for humanity, a section called Moonshots.

Yes, it is a somewhat familiar and dated concept, harking back to the 1960’s, when then-U.S. President Kennedy set a seemingly optimistic, if not unrealistic goal – reach the moon in a decade. That ambitious project met its goal, and we are still reaping the rewards (in terms of technical spin-offs, if not additional ambitious projects).

Will the next one be colonizing Mars? Is it Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s vision for a sustainable, super-fast transportation system for the planet? Climate change of course gets its due as a challenge to be met, but what if The Future is Postponed, and not because of bad weather, but poor investment in science, research and innovation?

While the likelihood of future postponements is low, there’s no reason to risk missing out on the topical tech talk and special sessions on societal developments at C2: plenty of time to register, and plenty of resources with which to prepare for whatever is coming.

The most creative solutions are often the result of the most extreme collisions of ideas and the ability to break down barriers between silos, say organizers at C2. Companies and communities need to manage ecosystems of collaborators that are highly complex and interdependent.

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