John Howkins – Writer and strategist on the creative economy


“It’s a statement of fact, every child is born creative.”

John Howkins is a leading writer and strategist on the Creative Economy. His first book The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas has become the seminal account of how creative people think and develop new ideas. His follow-up book Creative EcologiesWhere Thinking is a Proper Job applies new ideas on ecology to how people work together and co-creativity. It asks, Where do we think best?

Over the last fifteen years John has worked with a wide range of people and organisations in over thirty countries to increase understanding of creativity and innovation in a business environment. He continues to write, lecture and debate on the creative economy and what it means for us.

Before publishing The Creative Economy, John worked for a number of successful companies in publishing, TV, film, digital media and streaming.  From 1982-1996 he was associated with HBO and Time Warner with responsibilities for TV and broadcast strategy in Europe. This experience convinced him that successful creative people share the same mindset and work in the same way.

John is a Member of the United Nations Advisory Committee on the Creative Economy. He has been Chairman of the London Film School, Deputy Chairman of the British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC) and Council Member of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). He was Executive Director of the International Institute of Communications (IIC).

He is Executive in Residence at the Drucker School of Management, Claremont, Los Angeles; Visiting Professor, City University, London; and Vice Dean and Visiting Professor, Shanghai School of Creativity, Shanghai Theatre Academy, China.

He is a former Chairman of CREATEC, Tornado Productions and BOP Consulting, and a board member of Equator Films, HandMade plc, HotBed Media, Screen East and other companies.

John founded and directed the RSA Adelphi Charter on Creativity, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

He also worked as a journalist for many years on FrendzTime Out, The Sunday Times, Harpers & Queen and The Economist. He was editor of InterMedia, Vision (the BAFTA journal) and The National Electronics Review.He has a BA in International Relations (Keele University) and a AA (Dip) and MA in Urban Design (Architectural Association).

In our wide ranging conversation we talk about;

  • How to self define you job when you don’t have a title
  • John’s research and writing practice
  • Working at the Whole Earth Catalogue
  • Writing a TV and books column for Time Out
  • Setting up Channel 4 and the Birth of Britain’s independent TV production industry
  • Where the term creative industries came from
  • The sandwich analogy as relates to policy making
  • Everybody is creative as a statement of fact
  • The power of making the ask
  • The value of being concise
  • The importance of creativity for a healthy society
  • The difference between learning and education
  • The importance of learning as part of a creative practice

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