What’s The Problem? A review of this year’s Plywood Presents – Atlanta’s hottest annual problem solving event

By Todd Chambers in Creative on September 25th, 2013

What do 400 ex-gang members, Crochet Kids, chalkboard art and Kid President have in common? It turns out they're all catalysts for inspiration, innovation and creativity. Yep, that's right. This unlikely collection of products and social experiments all served as real-time proving grounds for creative professionals in search of new solutions to old problems.


Just last month, people from across the country came together for a few short days to talk about problem solving. A collective focused on investigating new ideas, searching for creative solutions, discussing workflows and networking with like-minded innovators and entrepreneurs. Add to that mix local handcrafted snacks, top shelf food trucks and live music and you just start to get a glimpse of the magic that is Plywood Presents. Make no mistake; this was a get together sure to yield lasting and profound significance, and a few of us here at BKV were lucky enough to be a part of it. The audience was made up of teachers, artists, marketers, social change agents and farmers, people very much like you and me. The only difference is these guys actually make a point of looking for problems. But wait, there's a twist. This search for problems is done with purpose. For these professionals, problems are worth finding for one reason alone – so they can be solved.

We will be known for the problems we solve. That's the tagline and the core purpose behind this gathering of creative professionals and social scientists. It's the rallying cry for those who understand the inherent value in finding problems and setting about to solve them. From cause-centered product launches like Good Spread, a peanut butter company focused on feeding babies in developing countries, to presentations from creative protagonist Todd Henry, Founder & CEO of Accidental Creative, the event was packed with cognitive heavy lifters.

And here's the kicker: hanging out with folks who really get jacked up about solving problems is infectious. It's fun. And it reminds us of just what it really means to be creative professionals. Getting back to work. Settling back into the groove after a great conference is always a chore.  It requires shifting gears from visioneering to real-time production. The questions loom large. How should we distill what was learned? How best to leverage the momentum of the event for the benefit of our clients and projects? The takeaways from the event were crystal clear. Place the highest value on creative collaboration. Build solid teams of solution-minded Creatives. And most importantly, embrace new problems. Way too often we mistake activity for progress and full schedules for advanced causes. Might we recommend a different approach, a break in the routine? This week instead of accepting that fourth meeting to hash out the fire drill de jour, insist on taking time to step back. Intentionally flip on-end the usual perspective that comes with your crammed calendar and complex relationships. Purposely reach out to your team, your coworkers, your associates and clients and form an alliance focused on finding new solutions to old (sometimes very old) problems. Take time to nurture your own creativity and to facilitate that nurturing effect for those you work with. The fact of the matter is that problem solving can invigorate your life's work. And it can prove very rewarding to our causes and our clients. So what problems are you and your team solving? Let us know. We'd love to hear about them. If you'd like to catch up on some of the fun and magic you missed at this year's Plywood Presents check it out here. Be prepared to be inspired. Then, roll up your sleeves and go find a problem to solve.