Blog

David Usher

February 20, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

In Internet Age, Creativity Is A Necessity in Business Says David Usher

The Financial Post’s Rick Spence recently attended a presentation by famed musician and creativity expert David Usher:

On YouTube he’s been called “the Leonard Cohen of our generation.” Montreal singer-songwriter David Usher has sold 1.4 million albums, he’s had 10 No. 1 songs on Canadian radio, and he’s won five Juno awards. In his spare time, he creates Web applications and explores new media technologies. Usher says it’s his job to be creative.

And he thinks it’s your job, too. “Whether you’re an artist, or in business, or both, the Internet has fundamentally changed everything for all of us,” Usher says. “In today’s environment, creativity isn’t a luxury, or a risk. It really is a necessity.”

The 46-year-old artist, who should not be confused with the U.S. hip-hop musician who calls himself simply “Usher,” shared his creativity formula last week at his first-ever business seminar, at the Mesh Marketing 2012 conference in Toronto. If you’re struggling with innovation in your business, David Usher’s notes should be music to your ears.

“Before the Internet, we had the protection of location,” he explains. “You could be the best in your town, your province or your country, and that was enough. But in the Internet age, when anyone can see, compare and buy anything at any time, you have to strive to be better just to compete.”

But creativity isn’t just about building better products or services, Usher says. “It’s really about adopting an attitude or a culture that embraces change: the ability to adapt, to be nimble, and to innovate quickly, because the environment we’re all living and working in is moving so much faster.” Case in point: Usher spent 10 years under contract to EMI Music, the U.K giant that has a roster that included the Beach Boys, the Hollies, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. During that decade, he saw EMI shrink from 400 employees to 30. “It was a brutal time,” he recalls. “EMI was a big, established, slow-moving company, and they didn’t like change.”

By analyzing his own work, Usher has broken the creative process into four easily understood components. Step 1 is to keep an eye out for new trends and peripheral ideas. “Creativity is really just the ideas business,” he says. “To make great things, you need to be able to collect lots and lots of ideas from everywhere, not just from your specific field.”

In Step 2, you bang these ideas together to see what shakes out. “You do experiments,” Usher says. “Like a scientist, you mix and match. And then suddenly out of nowhere, usually at some weird time, like getting out of the shower, you get a moment of creative collision.” That’s Step 3, he says. “This is the light bulb moment when the ideas you’ve been collecting and building and experimenting with come together, and you suddenly know what you’re building and where you’re going.”

As an example, Usher played a fragment of a Dido/Eminem song (“I liked the groove and the baseline,” he rationalizes), then hummed a melody that came to him on a tour bus, and then played the other-worldly Flower Duet from the 19th-century French opera Lakmé. In 2001, he and former bandmate Jeff Pearce meshed those diverse influences to produce the song Black Black Heart, which hit No. 1 in Canada and made the top 10 in 14 other countries.

But coming up with a winning idea doesn’t end there. Step 4 in Usher’s process is to use all your business knowledge and experience to turn ideas into saleable products. “What started as a moment of creative collision then has to be built into something you can ship,” he says. “This is a grind. It’s 95% of the work,” which should encourage would-be innovators who doubt their own creativity. Those elusive ideas are just a start. You create the most value in fine-tuning those concepts for your market.

“Collect, experiment, moment of creative collision, build and ship,” Usher sums up. “It’s a totally learnable process, but it’s also repeatable. Once you understand the process, you just do it over and over, continually refining and improving.” He notes it’s also transferable. From music to Web design, Usher works in several creative disciplines, “but I move through them easily, because I use the same process for all of them.”

After showing off a few of his innovative Web applications, for e-commerce hockey websites and Amnesty International, Usher offered a preview of his newest interest: physical-interface technology. At concerts, he says, bands always set the “heartbeat” for their fans. “What if we reverse-engineered that idea?” he asked. “How could we get the audience to power the band?”

Usher went into the audience and recruited a very nervous attendee, Agatha, to come to the stage. There he asked her to grasp a sensor-filled rod with both hands. The rod, wired into Usher’s sound system, suddenly filled the room with the increasing pound-pound-pound of Agatha’s heartbeat. Inspired by that pulse, Usher and his guitar player, Jonathan Gallivan, improvised new songs and rhythms. “I really don’t know where this is leading,” he said later. “But I have great faith in my curiosity, that it’s going to take me somewhere interesting. Ideas stack upon ideas, and they take you to places you didn’t even know you were going.”

Rick Spence is a writer, consultant and speaker specializing in entrepreneurship. His column appears weekly in the Financial Post.

From: The Financial Post
November 12, 2012


Speakers' Spotlight represents a wide variety of motivational speakers who present energetic talks that will inspire you and your staff to take action, be it in your personal lives, your workplace, or both. Read More

Conference Speakers

The Impact of a Speech Can Last Forever

Speakers' Spotlight represents a talented roster of some of the world's most extraordinary conference speakers. Our conference speakers' experience is as broad as it is deep, and they are all leaders in their fields, which include business, politics, sports, the media, academia, science, technology, culture and entertainment. Our conference speakers are thought-provoking and action-oriented and leave their audiences, whether speaking to a group of 10, 100, 1000 or more, enlightened and inspired.

Speakers' Spotlight's conference speakers frequently go the extra mile to be in touch with meeting planners - or even CEOs and presidents of companies and organizations themselves - in advance of their talks in order to tailor the message and hit on key points specific to the client's needs. Our conference speakers arrive on time, and will have conferred with you in advance to ensure they have everything they need in order to deliver an impactful speech. Our conference speakers frequently use well designed visuals, such as photos, slide shows, or video clips to bring other elements of interest into their talks, and our conference speakers frequently build-in time during their talks to allow for an audience Q&A, ensuring your staff has a chance to ask questions of the particular conference speaker they have just heard.

Some of our conference speakers in high demand include David Chilton, Bruce Croxon, General Rick Hillier, Clara Hughes, Ron James, Amanda Lang, Stephen Lewis, Patricia Lovett-Reid, Mark Kielburger, Kevin O'Leary, Jeff Rubin, and Margaret Trudeau.

Speakers' Spotlight is committed to serving the diverse needs of the corporations, organizations, companies, non-profit and government groups that contact us when seeking conference speakers, and we work hard to find the conference speakers that will best meet and exceed your needs. Whatever you require are when it comes to conference speakers, Speakers' Spotlight will work had to ensure that you get the conference speakers that are right for you.

Keynote Speakers

Speakers' Spotlight: The Key Ingredient To Finding Your Perfect Speakers

Speakers' Spotlight represents a vast roster of some of the world's most extraordinary keynote speakers in fields such as business, politics, sports, the media, academia, science, technology, culture and entertainment. Our keynote speakers run the gauntlet from spoken word poet Sarah Kay, to business guru Simon Sinek; from young athlete Olympic athlete Adam van Koeverden to the wrongly incarcerated former boxer Ruben Carter; from Margaret Trudeau to her son Justin Trudeau. Whatever your needs are for your keynote speakers, Speakers' Spotlight the keynote speakers that will fill them.

Our keynote speakers can adjust their talks to suit your needs, whether you're looking for an address by keynote speakers of 15, 30, or 45 minutes or more, our keynote speakers will confer with you before your engagement to ensure that their talks meet your needs. Our keynote speakers frequently adjust their speeches to include important talking points your organization or company needs emphasized, and will also often adjust content so it is individually tailored to your audience. For instance, if your audience is primarily those in the auto industry, our keynote speakers will draw on anecdotes from that industry in order to ensure their speech is relatable. Our keynote speakers are usually available in the days and weeks prior to your event to discuss your needs and go over any details (such as audio visual requirements) that arise.

Speakers' Spotlight is committed to meeting the different needs of the corporations, organizations, companies, non-profit and government groups that contact us when seeking keynote speakers, and we work hard to find the keynote speakers that will provide the best match for your event. Whatever you require are when it comes to keynote speakers, Speakers' Spotlight will work had to ensure that you get the keynote speakers that are right for you.

Motivational Speakers

Motivating the world

Speakers' Spotlight represents a wide variety of motivational speakers who present energetic talks that will inspire leaders and employees to take action, be it in their personal lives, their workplace, or both. Speakers' Spotlight's motivational speakers address everything from encouraging audiences to adapt healthy lifestyles to unifying groups to achieve professional goals. Our motivational speakers work with an astonishing range of companies in sectors such as science, technology, finance, advertising, and manufacturing, as well as professional organizations, cultural institutions, and non-profit entities and government, throughout North American and around the world.

Motivational speakers that work with Speakers' Spotlight frequently go the extra mile to be in touch with meeting planners - or even CEOs and presidents of companies and organizations themselves - in advance of their talks in order to tailor the message and hit on key points specific to the client's needs. Our motivational speakers arrive on time, work with the client in advance to ensure the proper set up of their audio/visual needs so that everything will go smoothly when they hit the stage, and often include Q&A sessions in their talks so that your staff can ask any questions of our motivational speakers that they may wish.

Using Speakers' Spotlight to book your motivational speakers obviously offers many advantages. You reap the benefits of our experience and expertise, as we can help you select the best motivational speakers for your motivational speakers' engagement.

Our motivational speakers include prominent motivational speakers - and many of them household names -- such as Roberta Bondar, Michael "Pinball" Clemons, Terry Evanshen, Scott Harrison, John Izzo, Simon Jackson, Craig Kielburger, Dr. Samantha Nutt, Simon Sinek, Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Brett Wilson.

Whatever your needs are when it comes to motivational speakers, Speakers' Spotlight has the motivational speakers that will both meet -- and exceed -- your expectations.

Zync is a marketing agency specializing in corporate brand identity and responsive web design.