9.12.18 / Global / Global

From Ian Schrager to Oprah, ‘The Age of Ideas’ Explores the New Creative Economy

Exploring how creativity has transformed the way the world works

With a background working at major brands like the Morgans Hotel Group and WeWork, The Age of Ideas author Alan Philips was always surrounded by creativity, but it was when he noticed a cultural shift that he recognized a dissonance between those that were successful and those that missed the mark. “I spent a lot of time in large companies, and sitting in board rooms, and see people generally not that happy making short term decisions,” Philips recalls. “The ones that are really great are the exception to the rule. People who understand the combination of short term return on investment and long term value of creativity and brand and trust and connection is few and far between.” He only had to look to his own wife, handbag designer Gelareh Mizrahi, to see how individuals were accessing creativity in a way brands were desperate to attain. “I saw my wife, who had no budget, and she’s growing exponentially using all affordable and accessible platforms like Instagram, Shopify, and I see companies spending tons of money losing relevance. So I realized something was not right, and I started to look into it more deeply, I wanted to find out why.” This is what began the journey into The Age of Ideas, Phillips’ first book which explores the way brands and personalities are tapping into their creative potential, and why that matters more than ever in our society.

“There’s been a shift of power,” Philips considers. “The only true sustainable competitive advantage left is your individual or organizational creativity. The way to realize the most value of that is to manifest your reflection of your true self, your purpose, who you truly are. And the companies that are able to do that and the individuals that are able to do that are…they’re changing our society.” This isn’t just a business transformation, Philips believes, but rather a shift in the the expectations of consumers. “We’re living in a time where for the first time ever, a majority of people are living with their basic needs met, and that requires a different approach to life.” Phillips sees the shift as monumental, not unlike the one that occurred in society over a century ago. “There was a point where everyone wanted the assembly line, and now it’s not like that. People want craft.”

Hospitality is an industry in which Phillips has the most experience, but also one which often struggles to assert its creativity in a way that resonates with guests. The ever-expanding hotel industry displays this the most, with a few notable exceptions. “Like all industries there’s a ton of copycats. When Ian [Schrager] talks about hospitality, he’s very in touch with the ethereal emotion that is trying to be created by these hotels. And I think he knows very clearly that when he’s able to do that something else happens. What’s the difference between a standard hotel and a boutique hotel? It’s design and programming. Mostly how are you presenting the product, it’s not a different product, it’s how you’re presenting a commodity product.” Schrager is one of the featured profiles in The Age of Ideas, in addition to other major brands like Sweetgreen, Kith, Jack’s Wife Freda, Soulcylce, and even Oprah, and there’s one thing Phillips attributes to their success as businesses: “You can’t fake hard work and care and honesty, and it shows through the work. People don’t mind spending money for things they feel are real connections.”

For the average person, this recognition of creative potential is crucial for creating a sustainable business, but also for gaining personal fulfillment, something that’s at the core of The Age of Ideas. “It’s a process of self discovery. Understand yourself, be true to yourself and what you care about, and share that with people in an honest way. And if you do that repeatedly over a period of time, people are going to know you for something, and you’re going to find the people who want to engage with what you’re doing. When they do that, you can live a life that’s driven by freedom, and the freedom to be who you are. I can’t think of anything better than that.”

‘Age of Ideas’ is out now at the official Age of Ideas website as well as Amazon

[Alan Philips]

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