James Taylor is an award-winning speaker and internationally recognized leader in creativity and innovation. For over 20 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, writers and rockstars how to build innovative organizations and design the creative life they desire.
As the founder of C-SCHOOL™ and host of The Creative Life Podcast and TV Show, he’s taught thousands of individuals in over 120 countries through his online courses, books, videos and keynote speeches.
James is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (F.R.S.A.) whose Fellows have included global innovators and leaders including President Benjamin Franklin, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Bob Dylan, Adam Smith, Nelson Mandela and Professor Stephen Hawking.
His fascinating keynote speeches have enlightened thousands, contact him here to book him for your next event.
We had the honour of interviewing him and in 9 carefully picked questions, he lets us in on his life path, creativity principles and visions of the future.
Time for the interview
1. How did you get to where you are today?
When I left school I became a professional jazz drummer and for the first two years I travelled around the world playing drums. But I was always fascinated by the business side of things. Very quickly I started being asked to organize events and from there I was asked to start managing other artists. One thing led to another and I was then asked to manage a number of more high-profile artists like the pop band Deacon Blue.
From there I realized one day while managing artists and putting tours together is great, you don’t have any intellectual property that you’re creating. Once the artists walk out the door, that’s it.
Record label and online education
Myself and my wife Alison then started two record labels and a music publishing company. Records were released all over the world and our publishing was used in everything from Japanese soap operas to TV ads to children’s TV shows. With the arrival of Napster I started to see that the music and record industry would change dramatically. An opportunity came up for me to move to California and to work in online education, which I was always really passionate about. A gentleman starting a company asked me to come on board and help grow it. We started online music schools and over the space of the next three years launched 30 online music schools.
We worked with Grammy Award winning music artists by helping them create their online schools with all the content and then launch it subscription based. Imagine Netflix but for music lessons.
After that, I was getting asked to speak more and more at conferences around online education, marketing, technology and creativity. I was enjoying that so much that I thought that’s something I want to do. I want to speak and spend a lot of my time on what I was doing before, which was travelling around the world, not as a musician or as a manager of artists but as a speaker.
That’s basically what I do today. In the past 90 days I’ve spoken in 19 countries around the world. I speak to everyone from governments of countries to large corporate organizations, multinationals to associations and all different types of industries. I speak primarily on business creativity innovation and artificial intelligence. That’s how I arrived at where I am today.
2. What gave you the courage to become a keynote speaker?
Finding your passion
If you think about getting up on stage from an evolutionary perspective our brains were being hard wired, so the fight-or-flight part of your brain is very naturally wanting to get off or not even go on that stage in the first place. The first way to get over that is getting to a place where you’re really passionate about your topic and you just want to share it. I still think it starts with the same place: having something that you’re passionate about and a message that you want to share with the world.
Sharing your message
After finding your message it’s about the mechanics in terms of your stage scales (presenting, crafting speeches, getting booked). I have a whole program called Speakers U, where I train speakers on how to build an international speaking career. Many of them are working in successful corporate jobs but feel they’ve gotten to a point in their life where they want to make a change. They could simply want a lifestyle change or they’re really passionate about a particular cause and want to share it. Once they identify that, we help them find a way to launch and build a profitable business around their speaking.
We are living at a great time now, especially with the online head start. In the next three years another three billion people will be coming online for the very first time.
3. What are you working on right now and what are your goals in the future?
At the moment we’re working on really amplifying the message that we’re putting out there around creativity. Moreover the idea of super creativity, which is how humans can augment their creativity with exponential technologies like A.I. and machine learning. We’re currently creating a series of courses, different products and programs in order to help get that message out there.
My big mission is to unlock the creative potential in a billion people. It’s a big number and I can’t do that by just speaking on stages, as much as I love speaking on stage. I have to use online tools, social media and other things in order to be able to get those ideas out there.
4. After obtaining the “Icon of the Year” Reward by the United Nations Global Entrepreneur Council, what advice would you give entrepreneurs?
Now is a phenomenal time to be an entrepreneur for a number of reasons. One is what I mentioned before with these new customers coming online and into the market for the first time and another is around the technological change that is going on with things like A.I. and machine learning. I think now we’re in this time of implementation, regardless of what you do.
The other day they just launched a legal firm called Robot Robot & Hwang. Hwang is the only human partner, the other two partners are AIs. One A.I. specializes in legal mergers and acquisitions, whereas the other specializes in litigation. This is a new type of legal firm, which is half human half A.I. they are working together just the world of A.I. Imagine you’re in the world of finance, there are huge opportunities in finance for combining human creativity, strategic and critical thinking with the processing power of machine learning. As an entrepreneur the first thing I would be doing is, whatever your domain of expertise is, I would be looking to think how I could augment what I do now with technology such as A.I.. It’s a bit like the Wild West, there’s a massive opportunity to make some pretty huge transformations.
5. How do you think the job market will look in 10 years?
The University of Oxford estimates nearly 50% of jobs will disappear over the next few years because of technologies like A.I. and 85% of jobs that will be done in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet.
As an individual or company you have to come to peace with the idea. You either have to disrupt or be disrupted. There may be completely new entrants into a market, who will use some of these technologies and out-innovate you. They’re going to take your jobs, not as the machine is getting a job, but because they can use and understand these technologies better and combine it with their human creativity and innovativeness. The skills around creativity, strategic thinking, resilience, emotional intelligence and critical thinking are the ones to really be looking at and also the technical skills around A.I. machine learning robotics. This is based upon World Economic Forum and Linkedin Research.
6. What can be done to unlock one’s creative potential?
There is a creative process, which I use to create and develop ideas in five stages:
Check out the full explanation on the five stages of the creative process with James’ YouTube Video here:
8. What do you expect from events and what can enhance your experience at such events?
I think events are going through a real change at the moment . For a lot of conferences and association events it used to primarily be about content. There would be a bunch of speakers that would speak for their hour each with some coffee breaks in between and it was all about content. But today we have things like TED Talks, online videos and YouTube. So I think the role of events now is more about communicating and experience. That’s where we can learn a lot from music festivals for example, where there is more experiential types of things. But I think a bigger part now is we’re so focused on our own digital lives that we actually want to have some communal experience and that time where we come together.
8. What other tips can you give to event organisers?
I get asked a lot now to do the pre and post event. The traditional pre stage of an event was to send out questionnaires or the agenda and on the post side to send out surveys. There are many creative ways to make this more exciting. The organisers of a conference I will be speaking at in India next month reserved a day on Twitter a few weeks before the event. All the speakers attending will talk about the event, raise consciousness, get a feel of the poeple that are attending and answer questions.
On the post side you could do webinars for example or offer upsells as a part of the event. You could put on an event two days later which is only for 50 people instead of 500 and it’s more like a one day retreat style, where you bring most of the speakers at the event together and it’s more of an intimate type of place.
Another thing you also can do for the post event is breaking down some of the content and providing it to people in the days and weeks after the event. This enables them to continue to implement it in their lives and businesses. I spoke at an event in Brazil and the organizers are now sending out a series of briefing documents after the event with “Here’s the one thing to do this week to implement what James was talking about”.
9. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’ve always been fascinated by events. The first time I did an event was when I got asked to take a cake on stage for a piano player, as my father was a music musician. I took the cake on stage and it turned out he was Oscar Peterson, a great Canadian jazz pianist, which I only found out a few years later.
About a year ago I wanted to understand the trends and future of events.
With a free pass you can watch all these interviews that we did together. We discussed topics such as: How do you sell more tickets to your event, how do you create more interactive experiences at your event and how do you reduce costs for your event.