Holvi Blog for Makers and Doers

Creative Laboratory: unleashing people's creative potential

Entrepreneurship · 29/02/16 10:44 · Elena Zozulya

Oulu, a northern Finnish city and Nokia’s former tech hub, has gone through a major transformation in the past years: from the excruciating decline of the tech giant leaving thousands unemployed to becoming a thriving startup ecosystem. On our recent visit to Oulu we couldn’t help but notice how tight-knit and supportive the local entrepreneurial and creative community is. Martta Tervonen and Sami Mikkola belong to the millennial generation of Makers and Doers of Oulu, who value personal freedom and a strong sense of purpose in their work. Half a year ago they left their jobs at a software company to found Creative Laboratory (Luova Laboratorio in Finnish) to help more people and companies achieve their creative potential. The duo runs a co-creation space LABRA in Oulu and has just published their first book, for which they interviewed 16 most exciting creative voices in Finland to explore what creativity actually is. We sat down with Martta and Sami to discuss the power of creativity, doing what you love and finding your own path.

Can you tell about the idea behind Creative Laboratory? How did it all get started?

About half a year ago we were still working at a software company here in Oulu, when we both started thinking about life and our dreams. We started asking ourselves what we would do if there were no limits, no money or time constraints, no shame or fear. We asked ourselves: what is that important thing we want to bring to this world and share with other people. We had a burning desire to create something meaningful. We came to realise that we have a common dream that could be summarised in one sentence: we want to explode the world with creativity. We want as many people and organisations as possible to realise their full creative capacities and start doing things they actually feel are important. After throwing different ideas we came to a conclusion that we needed a space where people could come, work and meet other creative people. A space where we could organise various events and workshops around creativity. So Creative Laboratory, or LABRA, was born.

How does the co-creation space work?

Our co-creation space offers a place to meet, work and create within a comfortable inspiring environment for a membership fee. Downstairs we have a living room where you can meet people or have a moment for yourself with a cup of coffee. Upstairs is a co-working space, where our members can work during the day. We also arrange monthly events, for example our Creative Breakfast, and you can also rent the space for your own event or art exhibition. We want to bring people from different fields together — artists, musicians, technologists and business people — to develop some unique ideas in collaboration.


Soon we’re also planning to go online. We are working on our creativity portal, where you’ll be able to find tools and educational materials for your creativity. It will also include a co-creation platform, where you can share your creative challenges and ask for advice and support from other people. Our vision is to build a global creative community and a platform for creators which will help our members achieve more as part of our community than they could on their own. We’d like to open co-creation spaces in places where we will have most online members. We hope to open one in Helsinki soon.

You have just published your first book about creativity that features such people as Minna Parikka and Jani Leinonen. Can you tell more about it?

We came up with the idea to write a book when we realised that we don’t actually know what creativity is — we needed to explore it. So we decided to interview 15 plus one most creative people in Finland to learn how they’d found their creative calling. We wanted to feature the people who are doing things differently in their own field. We have included personal stories of designers, business thinkers, writers, musicians and artists. Among others in our book we have Minna Parikka, Paleface, Jani Leinonen, Hjallis Harkimo, André Noël Chaker, Alf Rehn, and Henkka Hyppönen. It’s a great combination of people.

co-creation space luova laboratorio

Interestingly, none of the people in the book define what creativity is. They don’t even say that they are creative. They just explore the topic. However, one common All people said that everyone is creative. You have to find the most important things for yourself before becoming creative. You have to find your values, what you believe in the world and what you want to do something for the whole world. It’s not something selfish, like you don’t paint for yourself. You create to get connected with other people and share something that starts from yourself. We’ve learned that we had a very naive and simple explanation of what creativity is — there is a whole lot more to creativity than we understood.

How did you come up with the idea for your event in Helsinki Music Centre?

The event was originally going to be our book launch. However, something didn’t quite feel right. We couldn’t see the value the event could provide to the attendees. So we threw away the original idea and decided that instead of boosting our egos we want to inspire young people between 15-29 to find their own path, encourage them to go after their dream and if they haven’t found it yet, keep on looking. The event was created in collaboration with Me Säätiö, the foundation that helps young people who are a bit lost.

It’s not always easy to set your own path and young people should know it’s completely okay to be lost, because so is everyone else, including the most admired artists, makers, doers, and thinkers of our society. The event featured inspiring talks by shoe designer Minna Parikka, movie director Olli Saarela, serial entrepreneur and politician Hjallis Harkimo and a live performance by singer and songwriter Reino Nordin.

co-creation space luova laboratorio

Where do you find your inspiration?

Our inspiration comes from the freedom that surrounds our work right now. We are working for ourselves and we can do what we feel is important and create something meaningful. We get very inspired by the idea that we can do something that we love and that we see what we are doing is valuable for other people. Last but not least, we get inspired by our fears — it feels so empowering to be able to do what you were afraid of.

Have something to add to this story? Share it with us in the comments!


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