Why is creativity so important in business? Because it is the idea, and not the money that drives entrepreneurship. This month’s Fast Company names the 100 Most Creative People in Business, with an emphasis on global leaders in technology, design, media, music, movies, marketing, television and sports. To be honest, I’d never heard of the vast majority on these people. That’s not important; their interesting and inspirational stories are what matters to those of us who value the power of creativity. Rather than file the list’s creative wisdom in the back of my mind, I’ve taken 10 quotes that provide insight into the creative thought process.
#2 Rebecca Van Dyck – CMO Facebook
“If someone gives me a statistic or data point, I take the other point of view or angle. I will surround it and see if it still holds true.” Van Dyck says this is a habit from her college days when she studied in Cairo and read three newspapers to get multiple perspectives.
#4 Ron Johnson – CEO JCPenney
The former head of Apple’s retail operations believes the ability to change is the key to success. “Our number one competitor is ourselves. The way you unlock potential is to find a new way to compete, ideally in a way that’s never been done before, so it’s seen as new. Our number two competitor is everyone else.”
#14 Steven Zeitel – Massachusetts General Hospital
Zeitel, the Director of Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation offers a quote that continues to motivate. During his doctoral resident days, one of his teachers said, “You’re not one of the brightest residents.” Thirty seconds passed before the teacher added, “But you may be the most creative we’ve ever had.”
#22 Matthew Schmidt – Professor Political Science School of Military Studies
“The tendency in any organization is to look for the 5 steps to do anything and make a system. That’s not how to look at a competitive world. We need to inculcate strategic thinking – the mindset to approach an ill-structured problem throughout the ranks.”
#27 Andrew Yang – Founder, Venture for America
Yang connects grads with startups, aiming to foster a generation of value-generating entrepreneurs. “The greatest problem in American business goes like this: We have brilliant people doing nonsense.”
#39 Tim Schafer – Founder, Double Fine Productions
Schafer, the celebrated video game maker of Full Throttle, finds inspiration in folklore and legends. “Every day we think of crazy ideas and then we laugh and say, ‘People might be offended by that.’ But I have found that everything worth doing is hiding behind a big, scary monster.”
#46 Ross Martin – Executive VP, MTV Scratch
“So much of what we strive for in creativity is disruption that creates an experience that drives you to action – an experience you’ll never forget, an experience that you’ll need to share with others – the audacity to try and disturb the universe.” This takes me (John Bell) back to my days in advertising at Leo Burnett. It was Leo who said, “When you reach for the stars, you might not get them, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
#79 Rachel Shechtman – Founder, Story
Schectman’s new boutique in Manhattan’s Chelsea district is linked to storytelling. “70% of an experience should be what consumers know and 30% should be surprise and delight. Take a pretzel, for example. Everyone knows what it is, and there’s not much product differentiation. But you put it in a bag with black and white stripes that look like the Empire State Building, and suddenly consumers think, Oh my God, this is so cool.”
#84 Elvis Chau – Creative Director, JWT Shanghai
We expect all advertising Creative Directors to be creative. Here is but one of Chau’s creative catalysts. “I like to go to exhibitions, museums. I encourage my people; they need to see more. Don’t just sit there and think. Ideas will not just jump out.”
#90 Marcus Samuelsson – Owner, Red Rooster
Located in Harlem, Red Rooster serves American comfort food that honors the diverse culinary traditions of the community. Samuelsson finds gastronomic inspiration within the neighborhood. “I bike and I walk every corner of Harlem, and see so much diversity that’s unexpected.” His menu is built around his encounters.
#95 Carrie Brownstein – Writer & Actor, Portlandia TV Series
“Costar, Fred Armisen and I are obsessed with the minutiae of a situation. What is fomenting the most discomfort in a relationship? It’s usually where someone’s belief system goes off the rails. That’s where we want to start exploring because that moment is where you feel almost your worst. You become aware of all the inherent contradictions, all the ways you’re in conflict with your environment.”
Fast Company’s complete list can be found at http://www.fastcompany.com/most-creative-people/2012