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Nowadays words like “sharing” and “collaboration” are becoming buzzwords. It all sounds so utopian: Human beings working together to create something better. What few realize is that collaboration is also becoming a business necessity, opening huge business opportunities.

I was reminded by this fact upon visiting Blockholm, a new show that opened on March 7 in Stockholm at The Swedish Architectural Museum (through June 2014). In the true spirit of collaboration, the show brings together professional architects, urban planners and more than 10,000 gamers and interested local citizens who are designing the future of Stockholm using the hugely popular Minecraft video game.

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$128 m profit in 2 years
For those of you who are not familiar with Minecraft, it’s an open world game in which more than 100 million global registered users build entire worlds by placing and breaking Lego-looking blocks. More than just a video game, it’s become a global phenomenon that led to founders, Mojang (and our Stockholm neighbors) to report sales of $306 million in 2013, with a profit of $128 million! This is really amazing to think when you consider that, just a few years ago, the founder, Markus “Notch” Persson, was a one-man Swedish programmer with a dream.

Photo: David Gray

Photo: David Gray

Collaboration is addictive
Now back to the Blockholm show and a few observations. To begin with, I noticed hardly any young people at the adjacent and nearly empty Museum of Modern Art (sadly, as a proud member). Instead, they were all huddled in the middle of the architectural museum, building collaboratively on a huge model of Stockholm’s topography – planning the road network and other infrastructure. While the show itself wasn’t all THAT great, what was fascinating was the creative explosion of energy of the participants.

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A creative explosion
As Museum Curator Markus Bohm explained: “This project should be a creative explosion, a fun-filled experiment. Participants can freely create their vision of the Stockholm of the future in Minecraft. Our goal is to highlight new creative possibilities within urban planning. Possibilities that bring people closer to decision-making, in a playful, socially engaging way.”

Photo: David Gray

Photo: David Gray

The barriers are coming down
Clearly, the old barriers on creativity are coming down. Whereas in the past, architects like I.M Pei, Frank Gerry and Frank Lloyd Wright ruled like gods, citizens can now provide virtual input to build their own city – all within the right context and platform. Creative souls today can collaborate for a period of time on a particular project, then move over to another project and reconnect with each other later on.

Getting the best results
It reminded me a lot of today’s rapidly evolving communications business. As
complexity in different channels increases, it becomes virtually impossible to be an expert in all areas. Anybody who says they are is lying. So you need to bring together the best talent for a particular business or communications challenge. And since those challenges are often highly complex and vary a lot, you need to be fast, nimble and versatile to get the best results. It reminds me a lot of how we have been working at Open since day one: collaborating with talented people to create magic for customers.

So when we see our kids playing Minecraft, I feel a lot better knowing that it’s not only creative, but preparing them for business life. Indeed, this is not a waste of time for anyone when applied in the right way.

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