“To survive we need food, sex, and creativity – and you need the last one to get either of the first two, so we know which is most important!”
This is Ralph Talmont’s adage for life. He says he is “in the ideas business,” where creativity is his stock in trade. He is a communicator, an author, a partner at Boma Poland, and co-founder of the Digital Metal Exchange, but he insists, if asked to describe his vocation in one word, it would be a sensemaker.
A sensemaker, he told Sonophilia, “works at the crossroads of psychology, strategy, experience and general knowledge, and develops a finely honed sense of what’s probable, improbable, and what should be left well-enough alone within an organization. Working from an outsiders’ perspective, a sensemaker assesses what might be a choice of courses of action required to progress forward, and acts as a sounding board and devil’s advocate for the organization’s leadership. The process may take several weeks or longer, and the delivery of insights is often progressive. A sensemaker is a facilitator, assisting the client towards clarity.”
As a creative strategist, startup founder, multimedia producer, and business consultant, Ralph has well over 35 years of experience in communications, publishing, design, and technology startups under his belt. Since his early start in photography, Ralph has always been interested in pursuing learning opportunities through examining his surroundings.
“There is, of course, the artistic part and the creative part and all those good things,” he clarified, “but on an intellectual level, once you get to talking to photographers, you will find that a lot of them do what they do because they’re just passionately curious about the world around them. The medium just happens to be the means of being able to get to the stories and the people and the interesting locations.”
Over the years, “the medium” included writing and photographing feature stories for leading magazines Down Under and elsewhere, working on corporate publications for global companies, and producing some thirty books on subjects ranging from the world’s largest sailing yachts to winemaking. Alongside those projects, Ralph ventured deeper into multimedia and video production, which then led to technology startups, creating multimedia products, an internet-based social sharing photo and audio project and the world’s first project management platform for book professionals.
This has evolved into his current work with both individuals and entrepreneurial organizations. “Like all those things, it only makes sense in retrospect,” he said. “A sensemaker’s path is usually tortuous.” Building on this many-faceted experience, Ralph has frequently spoken on creativity and communication at both in-company events and broader gatherings and has joined the Boma Global organization, an executive development startup, as a country partner, along with developing a fintech project in Australia.
What makes a startup tick is not a simple one and done method. An idea, after all, requires healthy doses of development and careful implementation, and there are no recipes that will work universally, beyond a recognition that at the beginning, a startup is always an experiment – a solution in search of a problem and an invention in search of a market. Some frameworks are useful in getting the idea validated, such as the concept of an MVP, or a minimum viable product.
“The question that a product needs to answer is ‘what is its job?’” Ralph explained. “The job of a car is to get you from A to B so, in order to see if your idea for a car makes any sense, you need to see if there’s a simpler idea that you can implement, without spending vast sums of money and expending lots of time and effort, to see if people want to get from A to B. So you give people give skateboards, and if those do well, and you confirm that people indeed do want to get from A to B, then you start adding bits to the skateboard, and then you ultimately end up with a car.”
Creativity, imagination, and play are the core ingredients that have lent a hand in where we are today as a civilization. “Creativity is the soil out of which grow new ideas,” he said, “which then may or may not find traction, which may or may not be useful, but creativity is the sauce really, in which our thoughts and actions need to stew in order to progress. I don’t mean progress in a strictly economic sense, because that’s too narrow, but I think creativity is the fuel in the tank that makes sure that life on this earth will still be worth living tomorrow.”
To foster creativity, we need to promote a culture of play beyond childhood, beyond a place of leisure. In our society, this is undoubtedly a tricky proposition, but one that Ralph believes is essential for innovation and problem-solving on a global level. Play, as he puts it, is intimately related to curiosity and the forming of ideas.
“We have to get serious about play. We have to inculcate in the minds of executives and leaders of all sorts that to find new ideas, we have to play with this stream of thought, this stream of issues, problems, conundrums. We have to pick them up, turn them this way and that way, throw them around as if they were little balls in small groups of people because this is actually where play is most effective… If we just continue to execute, implement, optimize, and maximize, we’ll just hit the law of diminishing returns every time.”
In that sense, Ralph’s involvement with the Sonophilia Foundation was a foregone conclusion. He found Sonophilia under somewhat serendipitous circumstances, as the community represents to him the water he’s been swimming in for the last several decades.
“The thing that I find interesting and positive about these sorts of groups is that people within these communities [can] go very broad, look at strategic [and] global contexts, and then zoom in on what can be actionable takeaways and questions of how to get to those within some kind of a structured process. It inevitably ends up being a multidisciplinary approach, and it inevitably ends up being a team effort… This is the best kind of play where you’re making discoveries of things that can be good and positive and useful.”