Keynote speaker, author and journalist Steven Berlin Johnson (Everything Good is Bad for You, Where Good Ideas Come From) spoke about the Natural History of Innovation— where good ideas come from. Johnson’s theory is that big ideas take a long time to develop and are usually built on top of ideas from a number of different sources. Innovation comes from mixing these ideas.
The kids media business is a perfect example of an industry constantly innovating. People from all walks of life and from all over the world meet several times a year to exchange creative ideas in search of those big ideas. It is a buzz and energy rush every time and at Kidscreen you could easily see this theory play out. For example, lots of animation studios are making the leap into the apps business. Carlson Bull from Bully Entertainment showed me 3 really cool app games they created recently-- one of which uses your iPhone camera to zoom in on a destination target in order to play. And Dan Hawes from March Entertainment created a trivia app for their Chilly Beach fan base. He is also looking at other hockey oriented “primal” games that can be easily turned into apps-- think “hip-checking” and pushing you buddy into the wall. On the retail front, home entertainment companies like NCircle are looking at new ways of packaging and merchandising DVDs. Some new ideas include placing content on USB drives rather than DVDs and working with the big box retailers to place DVD product outside of the DVD departments.
The hot topic of “transmedia storytelling” has been the subject of many news articles and panel discussions, and even dedicated conferences these past few years. While in theory every one understands the need to create programming differently and come up with new ways to reach kids, how exactly to do this needed some time to incubate. We are now finally seeing these start of some of these great ideas integrated into producer pitches in an organic way, rather than a “by the way…” As an example of the super talented companies from Australia, David Gureny’s Blue Rocket, showed me a lovely property that combines casual gaming with storytelling. At the core, this property has great characters and great potential for game play and story telling at the same time. AND it doesn’t feel like an add-on or an after thought.
I think Johnson’s theory was right. Good ideas are built on existing ideas and need time to grow. If you continue to surround yourself with a social network of people from different cultural backgrounds and different walks of like innovation is bound to happen and those great ideas will come.