Gruen Transfer panelist and Leo Burnett Australia CEO Todd Sampson maintains that creativity is the last remaining competitive advantage business has.
Todd Sampson presenting at AIME yesterday
Attendees at Todd Sampson’s AIME presentation yesterday walked away with a renewed passion for power of creative thinking. For those who missed his presentation, here are the key points.
Creativity in business: Sampson recounted an MBA program lecture that changed his life. The point? That creativity is critical to business and not intrinsically linked to the arts. He said, “ My parents actively discouraged me from doing anything to do with the arts because they wanted me to make money. I would look at arts students at uni and think, ‘losers’. When I realised the link between creativity and business, it literally changed my life.”
Your personal creativity is key: Sampson said, “Your personal creativity has the power to impact the world around you”.
He recounted how a group of ordinary people sat around a meeting table at Hilton Sydney and came up with the idea for Earth Hour, an initiative that eventually saw the citizens of 620 cities around the world turn off their lights in an attempt to save the planet.
Of the success of the program on the first night in Sydney, Sampson said, “At the time I thought, ‘I can’t believe I got Sydneysiders to turn off their lights and I can’t believe I got to hug Cate Blanchett’.”
Creativity can solve any problem: Break down the problem into one question, list all the assumptions you have about that problem and then turn the whole thing on its head. Sampson used an example of how companies in Canada were polluting rivers. The government wasn’t in a position where it could successfully legislate against big business so it simply changed the law so that companies’ water intake pipes had to be downstream from their output pipes. Problem solved.
Creativity can be learned and then practiced: Sampson maintains that we live in an age of ‘institutionalised conservatism’ where many organisations outsource creativity to advertising agencies. He said, “Advertising is the price people pay for being unoriginal”. He says all people are creative and that organisations need to tap into the talent they have in-house and that leaders should get their teams together and brainstorm as many ideas as possible with no filters and no ‘black hat’.
Rent a head: Struggling for ideas? Borrow someone else’s perspective. Sampson said, “Ask yourself, ‘How would Richard Branson solve this problem or Nelson Mandela or IBM?’.”
Be brave for five minutes longer than your competitors: Sampson said, “The most spectacular leaders are no different to ordinary people; they’re just brave for five minutes longer”. Action overcomes fear and progress is better than perfection. He said that we’re all afraid of failing and looking bad but we need to overcome that fear for long enough (at least) to get the job done.