Famous for being a member of the Eurythmics, British-born Dave Stewart has achieved success in a multitude of industries: as a singer-songwriter, producer, writer and a multi-media entrepreneur. As one of the most sought-after writers and music producers, Stewart has written songs for many famous musicians and he has also collaborated with the likes of Bono, Ringo Starr, Shakespear’s Sister, Bryan Ferry, Gwen Stefani, Tom Petty, Anastacia, Celine Dion, t.A.T.u, Shakira and Katy Perry.
He has shared the stage with everybody from BB King, U2, Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen to Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan. Stewart has won Best British Producer four times, Best British Songwriter five times, as well as numerous Grammy, MTV and European awards. As an entrepreneur, Stewart has worked with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to create ‘The Hospital’, a multi-media creative centre and members club in London. He is also quite the humanitarian worker.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela gave his prison number 466/64 to Dave Stewart so that he could use it to help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, leading to the 46664 campaign and series of concerts. He was recently named one of 100 Most Creative in Business by Fast Company Magazine. Stewart is the US creative director of The Law Firm, a global creative network, he also established Weapons of Mass Entertainment, a company linking creative ideas to multi-media projects around the world. His recent book The Business Playground: Where Creativity and Commerce Collide, co-written with Mark Simmons, shows why businesses need creativity to succeed in the modern economy.
How has your role in business changed since your days in music? There is a difference between business and show business, but the internet has changed the world significantly.
Do you think The Business Playground suggests a new type of creative thinking for businesses? What we are saying is that you can’t ignore it anymore. Businesses need creative people. At the moment there is an idea that there is ‘real business’. People have a serious idea which they develop into a business and then at the end of the process they add creativity in the form of a TV ad or something like that. Whereas what we’re saying is that you need creativity from the beginning. Right now Polaroid have Lady Gaga fronting their new line of products. She will probably have ideas widely outside the box and her involvement will be from the beginning.
What are the three creative techniques you would suggest to a start-up or business?Well firstly, I think it is very difficult to start up a business unless you really get excited about what you are doing, because that generates energy that people connect to. The second thing is from a chapter in the book. Try rolling a dice and it will tell you a character – you have to think of what the idea would be like from inside your grandma’s shoes or an alien’s shoes. It’s a technique for getting yourself out of the idea, because if you get too close you can’t focus. Another thing I have learnt very early on is to showcase a mini presentation of the idea to my friends. You have to come up with a great logo and a great mission statement. Creation is like writing a song, you get the melody right first. Make the presentation very early on and you can go back to it later.
How does a network like The Law Firm help businesses? The idea is that business is normally very much closed, and everyone is keeping secrets from everybody else, but through The Law Firm, everyone is connected, so they can talk to each other. If they want to do a campaign they can get in touch with anybody in the network whose work is similar across countries. It’s like an extra brain and they can discuss everything from a different country’s preceptive.
Who are your most inspirational business leaders? When new inventions come along I get very excited to see how they are done. So I tend to get inspired by people who come up with new connections. I.e. a great company like Kiva: it’s a funding company offering loans to people all around the world – so when a lady in India needs to borrow money to set up a tailors, she can get a loan through international connections. As for individual leaders, I would have to choose Leonardo da Vinci because he was involved in everything: inventor, scientist, artist. He made drawings and verifications that are still remembered today. With the internet, people keep thinking of strategies that are very smart for bringing things to people’s attention. For example, a fish and chip shop can spend £5,000 on conventional marketing, or they can put that £5,000 into sponsoring a band who will become famous and get a lot of attention, suddenly the fish and chip shop is well known.
How has creativity in businesses been affected by the recession? Actually I think that you need creativity most in a climate like this. It is great to have people who don’t look at the world in exactly the same way, so they come in with new strategies. It has been this way throughout history, in times of great stress, war or unemployment. It has often been creative people who have looked at it from a completely different perspective.
What new ideas do you think are going to be successful? Smartphones, is going to be the next big thing. Slowly people are realising it is many things. It can be a camera, you can text, you can go on the internet, you can look at maps. It is going to be able to do more and more in the next five years. It might even be able to open your car door. They’re just tricks, but what it will be able to do is to connect you to the world from the palm of your hand. If you have created the right business model it can save time and it can connect you to chains. For instance department stores eliminate some of the initial complications about how to shop there, and it can allow you to swap shoes. It should allow you to become a pacemaker and eliminate all the noise and the rubbish that’s bombarding you and then you’ll be able to put it wherever you want. You could choose a movie on the bus on the way to work and then it would be on your TV when you’re at home. In business this is going to be a huge thing. For instance I am involved in something at the moment to do with point-and-find. Point-and-find is on a Nokia mobile phone; it works through recognition from the camera. So you point it at Eros on Piccadilly Circus and it tells you ‘that’s Eros on Piccadilly Circus’ and a map pops up and says you are standing here.
When I first launched this we were in a hotel with a host of amazing people – filmmakers, even the head of Warner Brothers and Paramount –and we were explaining point-and-find. You could point the control at a vase and it says the vase is from 1848 – it’s quite amazing because it’s just a mobile phone camera and recognises it because it’s been virtually tagged. They said now point it at that bedroom over there – and it tells you are in the Beverly Hills Hotel, and that the room is the penthouse suite, and then it pops up saying that is where they filmed a scene from Pretty Woman and another thing pops out and plays a section from that scene and another thing pops out and asks if you’d like to play the movie. It could be tagged with anything. For instance I’m in Manchester and I point it at a fish and chip shop: it could come out with a track by the band that the fish and chip shop sponsored, and tell you there are four other fish and chip shops and give you the map of how to get there.