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Posted on Tue 21 Feb 2017

Artful Innovation: the start of the journey

Artful Innovation™ was a five-day course to support small creative technology companies to examine their practice and strengthen their business cases. The Programme Director was Stephen Gatfield.

Image of participating companies on Artful Innovation

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Rachael Burton

Rachael Burton

Bristol+Bath Creative R+D Producer

"I've learned more in the last five days than I have in the last five years of education."

Annie Zimmerman, Understory

Artful Innovation invited participants to enter into a task based journey of learning, sharing, building and evaluating their businesses. The course enabled companies to better understand their target markets, potential users and team structures, interrogate their values, consider brand and develop their business models. We examined case studies of successful start-ups, shared Design Innovation methodologies, learned about protecting IP and looked at different routes for finance. The course also explored mindfulness as a way of supporting team wellbeing.

The course culminated in a pitching session to a panel of business advisors and consultants. Each company rose brilliantly to the challenge, distilling their learnings from the week into compelling, convincing stories. There was a real sense of anticipation and ambition for what would come next. The learning arc from day one to day five of Artful Innovation has been steep and intense. The value of spending five days in the same space as colleagues, other start-ups, business coaches, speakers and mentors (mostly without emails getting in the way) has been really strong.

One of the common threads for many of the participants was the dilemma space between making money and protecting core values. Stephen kept reminding everyone that there are many different pathways to achieving economic sustainability. You have to make an informed decision on your primary audience, do lots of research, grow strong networks and find the right finance for you.

The key learning I came away with was the importance of storytelling. Know who you are talking to and what is important to them. The start-ups who win awards, leverage investment and sell products are brilliant at telling their story and emotionally connecting to their audience.

We are excited to see what the next steps are for the Artful Innovation participants. The participating companies are: Andthen, Noise Orchestra, Rusty Squid, Studio Meineck and Understory. You can read more about the companies and their teams here. This is the start of the journey for Watershed and the Pervasive Media Studio to support our creative community to develop their business propositions and skills in parallel with their brilliant ideas. We are committed to supporting economically sustainable practice within the creative sector.

The Artful Innovation Library

Throughout the course we have been growing a collective library of resources that cover topics from mindfulness to finance to business model structures.

Here's the Artful Innovation library as it stands. We would love to grow it, please share your favourite creative business resources in the comments below or on Twitter.


Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M ChristensenDo Purpose - Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more by David Hieatt

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben HorowitzGetting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model by John MullinsThe Misfit Economy by Alexa Clay & Kyra Maya Phillips

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed CatmullLeading Lean Software Development: Results are Not the Point by Mary PoppendieckPeers Inc: How People and Platforms Are Inventing the Collaborative Economy by Robin Chase

Do Protect - Legal advice for startups by Johnathan ReesScaling Lean: Mastering the Key Metrics for Start-up Growth by Ash Maurya

This is Happening: Redesigning Mindfulness for Our Very Modern Lives by Rohan Gunatillake


At Your Service by Katie Shelly

The Business Podcast by The Guardian hosted by Coco Khan

Change for the Better, BBC Radio 4 Four Thought, hosted by Katz Kiely

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

My Career Crisis: work-life dramas and how to solve them by Rosina Sound

#52 Raising the Bar: industry drivers for diversity in industry by Gimlet Media


Clayton Christensen "Where does Growth come from?"

Clayton Christensen: "Where does Growth come from?" | Talks at Google

Yancey Strickler, Kickstarter CEO and Co-Founder

TOA16: Keynote Talk with Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter CEO and Co-Founder)

Startup Funding Explained: Everything Youn Need to Know

Startup Funding Explained Everything You Need to Know by Izaat Tamrin


Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Stop wasting money on digital projects if you aren’t prepared to promote them properly by Martha Henson

5 things I’ve learned creating digital things for kids by Sharna Jackson

55 things learned as a 19 year old VC by Tiffany Zhong

Websites & apps

Both of these websites offer a great starting point to structure your business model:

Mindfulness cen help with all aspects of your personal and business life. Rohan Gunatillake, founder of Mindfulness Everywhere and Buddhify has some really useful tools for mindfulness on the go to fit into your busy start-up lifestyle:

Rohan Gunatillake Medium blogBuddhify App

The business finance guide is a really useful online tool:

The Business Finance Guide - A Journey From Start-Up to Growth

We would like to thank Artful Innovation course leader Stephen Gatfield and all of the speakers and tutors: Alex Fleetwood and Alex Bertie (Sensible Object), Greg Taylor (Elmwood), James Vaughan (Ndemic Creations), James Touzel, Lisa Urwin and Kiera Dale (TLT Solicitors), Mark Ellis (business coach), Mary-Alice Stack (Creative United), Dr Michael Johnson (Glasgow School of Art), Paul Archer (Duel), Rohan Gunatillake (Mindfulness Everywhere), Samantha Payne (Open Bionics), Susan Briganti (Swarm Vision) and Tracey Follows (The Future Laboratory).

We would also like to thank the beautiful venues we have used during the course. As well as Watershed we spent time at Triodos Bank, Ashton Court Mansion and The Forge.

Artful Innovation nominations were supported by MadLab Manchester, Glasgow School of Art, Makerversity London, Wired Sussex, Near Now Nottingham and Creative Cardiff.

Artful Innovation was supported by the Network for Creative Enterprise: Coworking Bath (The Guild), Knowle West Media Centre, Spike Island, UWE Bristol and Watershed. It is funded by Arts Council England and the European Regional Development Fund.

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