Serge Dive puts it this way: Purposefully organized chaos generates creativity.
Dive runs Beyond Luxury Media, a collection of some of the most innovative industry gatherings: Pure (focused on experiential travel); LE Miami (lifestyle hotels and resorts); We Are Africa (focused on that continent); and coming this November in Bali, the inaugural, Asia-centric Further East.
I met him shortly after he launched the International Luxury Travel Market, which he subsequently sold to Reed Exhibitions, and I have been impressed not only with his ability to identify trends in their embryonic stages but with the thought and creativity that he puts into each of his shows.
Their dissimilarities, not only to each other but to any other industry events, are their only common thread.
And each evolves. This year at Pure, he refined a concept he had launched in 2017: Prior to three days of appointments between suppliers and hosted buyers, he holds a two-day festival, or "un-conference," called Matter.
Most of the workshops at Matter have a direct connection to travel, and a handful could be seen as nuts-and-bolts training ("How to Stop F&B Draining Your Profit"). But most have a fuzzier edge: building trust with clients; the relationship of storytelling to marketing; how design can drive the bottom line.
The tie between the keynote speakers and travel is much less readily apparent. This year featured Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and What3Words founder Chris Sheldrick.
Neither was a particularly dynamic speaker, but using post-presentation buzz as a measure, Sheldrick nonetheless succeeded in jolting the imagination of the crowd with his ideas.
What3Words is an app that replaces the numbers assigned to a specific place on Earth -- degrees, minutes and seconds, along with the four directions -- with three random words. So, rather than being at latitude 38 degrees 54 minutes 38.22 seconds north latitude and 77 degrees 2 minutes 49.69 seconds west longitude (the location of the hotel where I am writing this), my What3Words location is simply "giving.saints.deeper," a unique identifier for the three square meters at the entrance of the property.
Clever, but to what end? It turns out there are several practical applications. While the app is free to download and use to search locations for their three words, the Mongolian and Tonga postal systems have taken commercial licenses and are encouraging their residents -- nomads in Mongolia and shoreline dwellers in Tonga -- to use their three words as their address so that mail carriers can get letters and packages to them more easily.
Domino's Pizza on St. Maarten hopes it will help its drivers deliver more efficiently, and a ride-sharing app in Ecuador also took a license.
In the more developed world, technologies such as voice recognition-enabled cars with GPS could help even the most illiterate driver (or an autonomous vehicle) navigate exactly to a three-word address without having to know a street name or number (or city, state or country, for that matter).
Mercedes-Benz sees such promise in the technology that it not only bought a license, it bought a sizeable piece of the business. In an interview after his speech, Sheldrick told me he believes most other car companies are likely licensees.
Another First World application will come into play when drone delivery becomes a reality for retailers like Amazon. Although you might want to use the three square meters at your front door for mail delivery, you might want packages dropped in your fenced backyard.
Think about it. Emergency services can find someone in a dense forest. Food vendors at festivals can advertise their locations. Tents in campgrounds and boats in marinas can be located. There must be thousands of untapped applications.
In the travel industry, Small Luxury Hotels has already adopted What3Words addresses for its catalogues and website in addition to traditional addresses, and Lonely Planet's guide to Mongolia has also incorporated the system.
Which gets back to Serge Dive's belief that purposefully organized chaos generates creativity. Matter sometimes has a disorienting feel to it, and by bringing creative ideas to his audiences, even if they don't have immediately identifiable utility, he hopes to get their creative juices flowing.
What3Words was the second most talked-about topic over the next four days; the nightly parties, praised and criticized, were first.
"I believe we are defined by the communications of our time," Dive told me. "We don't think linearly anymore. We think like hyperlinks, going into directions we hadn't originally considered. Similarly, creativity is an important and relatively accidental process; we look for one thing and find something different."
And so he hopes that by exciting the mind prior to agent-supplier meetings, he will elevate the conversations and surface exciting possibilities for all his attendees' businesses.
Dive said he found the simplicity of What3Words particularly attractive. "It's like E=mc2. Both express deep ideas with simplicity."
It's probably a good thing that the three words are random, must contain at least four letters and may not be homonyms, or there would be an incredible bidding war among Italy, India and Bali for "eat.pray.love." Indeed, by eschewing the sale of customized geo-identifying words, Sheldrick may be passing on a significant revenue stream, but I agree with Dive: Simplicity is the essence of genius.