Thursday, April 2, 2015

1871: A Chicagoan Hub for Innovation

                Creativity is often focused on the individual. Individuals create ideas, but how can individuals turn their ideas into action? They often need support. This is why 1871 was built. Startup businesses lacked a space in Chicago where they could meet to build their companies. 1871 is a community of designers, coders, and entrepreneurs on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart. This location provides access to classes, lectures, seminars, equipment, and most importantly, networking.
                McLean states that “to bring an idea from concept to market, it must be recognized for its potential; it must receive funding in an environment of scarce or at least competing resources; and it must overcome potential obstacles such as technology challenges, competitive pressures, and a variety of other obstacles.” This is 1871’s mission.
                This nonprofit organization offers a variety of amenities including desks, storage, Internet access, and meeting spaces for beer and pizza on Fridays. Different levels of members have different privileges, but the main benefit of 1871 is the networking and educational opportunities to support creativity. Kanter states that a high-creativity climate includes organizational encouragement, supervisory encouragement, work group supports, freedom, sufficient resources, and challenge.
                Many entrepreneurs come to 1871 looking for the next new startup to fund. Influential leaders like governors and even foreign prime ministers have visited. In addition to startups, four local universities and venture capital firms have access to 1871. The amenities are abundant, and the competition is evident. There may be some competition among startups, but most startups only reside in 1871 for a few months to a year. The main competition is Chicago versus other cities.
                1871 is named for the rebirth of Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire. 1871 looks to rebuild Chicago the successes of new businesses. While many of these startups will fail, many will succeed compared to the greater economy of the nation and world.
                Angle discusses that it is not just the freedom of communication within an organization that can encourage creativity, but the frequency of communication in diverse populations.  Open minds and wide perspectives are encouraged at 1871 to inspire creativity and innovation. If innovation occurs within an organization, then the people within the organization must be cohesive. Even if the startups only have 2-5 members, they still play a role in 1871 and the larger Chicago economy.
                1871 is only in its third year in Chicago, but the organizational culture and climate is promising. Startup businesses have a place to convene, work, create, innovate, and network to build their businesses to their full potentials. It is likely that more of these creativity hubs will grow around the country as cities in their entirety become more like businesses.

McLean, Laird D. (2005). “Organizational Culture’s Influence on Creativity and Innovation: A Review of the Literature and Implications for Human Resource Development.” Advances in Developing Human Resources. 7(2), 226-246).


  1. Mary,

    This is a really cool idea, I'm very interested in how you heard about it!
    A hub that cultivates creativity is a unique perspective on the discussion of what is creativity. A location makes me think of the domain side to the creative process. I liked that you mention that a lot of the start-ups still fail: it is an important lesson we learn for creativity that is discussed throughout our readings and during lecture. Failure is important to creativity and being unafraid to fail is a component of that! I think having the passion to pursue something, even if everything is against you, is definitely a unique characteristic that fuels creativity.

  2. I almost went to 1871 last weekend! They hold a weekend event called Campus where they invite students from Illinois universities to participate in a startup competition with workshops and lectures for free. I spoke with someone who attended Campus and he said it was interesting. A lot of the startup pitches seemed pretty cool, (an app that would make use of a user's location and find them about to expire & discounted produce). Seems like a good way to get your foot in the door of the Chicago tech world.


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