Ever wish you could be a fly on the wall for something really different? The organizers of the C2-MTL conference invited me to attend last week’s conference in Montreal. They gave me a press pass,and let me observe any and all workshops, lectures, parties, etc. Further, they arranged for one-on-one or small group interviews with Neri Oxman, John Mackey, Bobbi Brown, Diane von Furstenberg, Will Travis, and Richard Branson. Hard to describe how much fun it was having no obligations other than learning and enjoying.

They describe the conference as follows:

C2-MTL: Creative Answers to Commercial Questions

Set in the creative hotbed of Montréal, C2-MTL is a new kind of annual global conference: one that explores the relationship between commerce and creativity, and its potential to redefine business. This immersive three-day event is designed to inspire right and left brain thinking through a smorgasbord of non-traditional experiences, including multimedia conferences by worldclass speakers, engaging exhibitions, collaborative workshops, a creativity Boot Camp and evening festivities. It all happens in an unconventional innovation village, designed specifically to enhance the C2-MTL experience.

I asked Will Travis why his organization, Sid Lee, volunteered to curate the conference. He told me it was all about earning participants’ respect for creativity. Makes sense. The whole conference was a model for how to engage with an audience. the environment was engaging. The large and small events were engaging. There was all sorts of time for individuals to connect with others and engage one on one. Travis told me they even focused on how to make the garbage containers engaging, “Every element is connected. Any one element can disrupt the whole.” (We flies on the wall have a natural attraction to garbage stories.)

Travis is applying many of those principals to expanding Sid Lee to the USA. He and his team are focusing first on the clients and the work. Once they’ve got traction, they’ll start broader scale marketing. They are off to a good start with what Travis describes as a “pioneering approach”. The overall agency has 60 architects, 140 technology and innovation experts, and a 100 person production department. Together those make up roughly half of the 600 person total. Beyond that, they are partnering in ventures with the like of Cirque du Soleil so they can create complete experiences – like C2-MTL.

Francois Chartier

One of the workshops was led by Francois Chartier. He briefly explaned how he had been a sommelier for 25 years. He had a good palate. Then he got interested in the science of wine and the science of food. His breakthrough was realizing that they were connected by arromatic compounds. Apparently no one else had made this connection. So he took a year off to think about it, came back, wrote a book, gave a TED talk and is no off to the races preaching the virtues of aromatics. A great example of connecting seemingly unconnectable things to spark creativity. (This was a workshop at which it was far better to be a fly on the wall than to be a fly in the wine.)


Another workshop was led by Charles Colby and Anastasia Simitsis of W.illi.am. W.illi.am focuses on creating digital experiences via innovative multiplatform projects, by integrating cross-functional consulting and development expertises. At the workshop I attended, they walked participants through a five step exercise:

  1. What – Value Proposition: package of products and services offered to customers
  2. Who – Customer Segment: groups of people or organizations served
  3. How – Operating Model: how value proposition created or developed
  4. Where & When – Channel: how value proposition communicated and delivered
  5. $ – Revenue Model: how company is paid for delivering value proposition

What was particularly interesting about this was their idea to cut all these across mobile computing ecosystmes, globally connected social networks, ubiquitous geo-locations, big data & analytics, and intelligent sensor networks. (A very big wall for this little fly.)

Greatly enjoyable, hugely varied experience from global success stories and thinkers to old friends to new friends with a hard-copy magazine in Missoula Montana (Mamalode) to arromatics to ubiquitous geo-location intelligent sensor networks. All good.

Follow this link to read the overview article on Forbes.com

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