Blog Post

Notes from the sidelines

By Maytee Rodriguez: Program Manager Creative Incubator

The Creative Incubator launched in 2018 as a joint effort between the Art Directors Club of Europe and Pi School. At the time, I was working as Program Manager for the ADCE, a European network of designers and advertising professionals, coordinating the annual awards and the Festival as well as other educational initiatives. All these activities made us aware of the need to provide a space to research and develop viable solutions to the central problems affecting the creative communication industries.

As luck would have it, a great friend of the ADCE and experienced trainer, Jamshid Alamuti, was starting a new school, Pi School, with the mission of connecting creativity and technology and offering hands-on training to seasoned professionals. He partnered with Marco Trombetti, founder of numerous successful startups and of Pi Campus, a startup district that invests in talent. Taking into consideration the ADCE’s principal objective, Jamshid got to work in designing the structure and methodologies for the program.

The idea for the Creative Incubator developed naturally in this joint ecosystem. A yearly program that focuses on a specific topic and through research, debate, and ideation, produces suitable solutions and models that can be readily implemented. Participants come from all over the world and are generally working creatives in fields like advertising, architecture, fashion, academia, consultancies, etc. Anyone working in creativity or in a creative organization fits the profile.

Jamshid Alamuti, Program Director, welcomes participants at the Vienna 2020 module.
Jamshid Alamuti, Program Director, welcomes participants at the Vienna 2020 module

I have always been inclined towards knowledge; its acquisition, and transfer. In 2019, I joined Pi School, where I saw great potential in Jamshid and Marco’s vision of an integrated approach to creativity and technology. I formally trained in fine art; thus, creativity, for me, is the fundamental code to understanding the world and creating value.

It is a great privilege to manage the Creative Incubator. The obvious reason is the subject. But I have come to understand through my experience organizing events and other training programs that the real value lies in people. From the team who you work with relentlessly to ensure the highest quality, to the mentors and lecturers that most often join selflessly and contribute with their knowledge and experience, to the participants, open to new ideas and eager to make a difference.

Group presentations during the Rome 2019 session
Group presentations during the Rome 2019 session

I am in constant contact with people from different cultures, ages, experience, interests, markets, etc. And while managing a program includes budgets, logistics, deadlines, providers, and many other things, the most fulfilling task is managing people.

Some years ago, I was fortunate to assist Kris Hoet in his role as curator of the ADCE Festival. While we looked for the best creative minds, the most innovative people out there to join us on stage, he stressed one thing above all: we were looking for good people. The same applies to the Creative Incubator: the lecturers/mentors are good people: humble and giving, talented and knowledgeable. Their presentations are not history lessons nor feel imposed. Rather, they are deeply introspective about their experience, their concerns, their hopes. Their level of engagement with the participants shatters traditional barriers of top-down, teacher-student training.

Barcelona 2019 module
Barcelona 2019 module

Of course, the program would not be as successful as it is if it weren’t for the participants. In one module alone, we usually count more than 10 nationalities. From the moment they apply, answering questions, helping them through logistics, to the time we all meet for a session, I feel like I already know them. I know them by their first names: I know their aspirations, their situation, and bits of their personalities. Above all, I know their authentic concern for the topic and conviction that they can make things better.

It never ceases to amaze me how after just one group assignment, they all seem to have bonded and opened up. And for the next 2.5 days, they become more comfortable with each other, willing to share ideas, confident and unabashed. Under Jamshid and the mentors’ leadership, a safe environment is created where ideas can flow freely.

Group picture at Pi School
Group picture at Pi School

The outcome is not only the ideas and solutions dealing directly with the topic. As many of past “incubaters” will tell you: it is a personal growth experience where confidence and determination find the insights and tools needed to go back into the world ready to tackle challenges and change patterns and mindsets with their work.

It is hard to write about the Creative Incubator without thinking of our dear friend Johannes who recently passed away. A firm believer in creative diversity, European values, a great listener and a great storyteller, curious about the future, committed to the promotion of young talent, family man, and friend. We will miss you.

  • Maytee Rodríguez

    Programme Manager Creative Incubator


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