Each week, we talk to leaders of the world’s most disruptive companies about how they’re jumping into the fire, crossing the chasm and blowing up the status quo. Leaders who’ve mastered the art of turning the impossible - into the profitable.
How do you unlock creativity in others?
Paul Venables is the co-founder of Venables, Bell and Partners. A San Francisco ad agency with self described ‘good intentions.’ Last year, VB+P, was named one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies and one of the top ten companies in media and advertising. So having good intentions is clearly working for them.
Which makes you wonder why more companies wouldn’t claim such apparently low hanging fruit. After all, it’s easy to claim ‘good intentions’ as your operating principle. Easy in the sense that no one knows what’s really in your heart - as a company or as a leader - except you.
Or do they?
Which is why this week’s theme is Leadership Values.
In this episode I talk to Jaime Robinson and Lisa Clunie, the founders of the New York agency, Joan.
Joan was started by two women who came together at the very beginning of a moment in history.
As you’ll hear, they didn’t decide to start a company for the explicit purpose of creating an environment overtly designed for women.
But they did decide to fuel the company with the unique qualities that the two of them bring as women: empathy; determination; sensitivity; resilience; intelligence and originality.
They brought one other thing that runs through the DNA of Joan. A desire to get the best out of everyone who works there. And you’ll hear how they support each other to do that, in their own ways.
This week I’m talking to Alain Sylvain - the founder of Sylvain Labs - an innovation and brand design consultancy. Sylvain Labs is 8 years old and describe their tools as science and whimsy. Their client roster is diverse, from Google to Nike. From Chobani to GM.
Alain creates and invests in new products, works closely with HELP, a merit- and needs-based scholarship program, the Global Poverty Project and the Lower East Side Girls Club. And sits on the board of VCU’s Brandcenter.
And he thinks deeply about how the work he does affects the people that make it and the people that experience it.
This is my conversation with David Abraham of Wonderhood Studios. Wonderhood is a startup - a modern media company built around a content and programming studio and a full-strength creative agency for major brands. David’s experience comes first from the London creative agency world of CDP and Chiat / Day. And most recently from seven years running Channel Four in the UK.
In 2018, KFC was named marketer of the year. Wieden + Kennedy were named agency of the year. And their partnership produced the Campaign of the year. Their partnership is driving business results and changing culture. It’s also the embodiment of the Wieden + Kennedy philosophy that Jason Bagley and Eric Baldwin described in our podcast last year - a philosophy they describe as ‘branded everything’. George Felix and Jesse Johnson are the two people at the heart of this very modern creative partnership.
This is my conversation with Mohan Ramaswamy - one of the partners of Work & Co. Mohan and I recorded this conversation at the Cannes Creativity Festival in June. Work and Co is unusual because they have 14 partners - all of whom are involved in all the major decisions of the company. For a business whose reputation and success has grown rapidly, that kind of community leadership is rare.
This is my conversation with Avery Baker - the Chief Brand Officer of Tommy Hilfiger. It was recorded live on stage as part of this year’s Cannes Creativity festival. Over the last two years, Avery has been instrumental in changing how Tommy Hilfiger shows up in the world. I wanted to talk to her about how she encouraged so many people across the organization to take the leap with her, and how she learned to push herself out of her own comfort zone in the process.
I first met John Seifert in 1983. We were both working at Ogilvy & Mather in New York on the TWA business. The world was very different back then. What hasn’t changed much is John. John and Ogilvy always seemed to fit together. You couldn’t imagine him working anywhere else. Thirty nine years later, he still hasn’t. Today he is the company's CEO. In an era and industry defined by upheaval, I wanted to talk to John about why he has stayed at one company for so long.
This is the second of my interviews from the Cannes Creativity festival. In this one - which was recorded in front of alive audience - I talked to Thomas Benski, the founder of Pulse Films, an award winning modern-day content studio, which two years ago was bought by Vice. Thomas is charming and charismatic. He is relentlessly energized and filled with original ideas. He is engaged. Interesting. And Interested.
This is my conversation with the four people at the heart of over the last 14 years. The two initial founders: John Boiler and Glenn Cole. And the two people they added soon after to help build the business. Evin Shutt and Matt Jarvis. Rarely do I see partnerships that - both in their intention and in their casting - have been formed on lasting foundations. Ego, insecurity and yes, fear get in the way. But when you get it right, it sounds like this conversation.
This week, my conversation with Chris Weil - the CEO of Momentum. Chris has always struck me as clear, confident and charismatic. He welcomes people into his world and puts them at ease. And he relishes change. I wanted to talk to Chris about where his confidence and openness comes from.
This is my conversation with Robin Domeniconi - CEO/Founder of Threaded Tales and one of the founders of Real Simple magazine. I was struck by Robin’s history. By the diversity of things she has done. Of the size and significance of the organizations she has led. And during our conversation, I was reminded again of how even the best of the best are human. And that it is their ability to use that to their advantage that separates them from other leaders.
This is my conversation with Kat Gordon - founder of the 3% Percent Conference and CEO of the 3% Movement. Kat started 3% in 2008, to highlight the fact that only 3 percent of creative directors at major ad agencies were women Kat is a change agent, moving into previously unoccupied spaces, doing things that hadn’t been done before. A revolutionary in a time of revolution. I wanted to understand where that willingness to take on the status quo in such a public and sustained way comes from.
This week, my conversation with Cheryl Abel-Hodges, the Group President of Calvin Klein North America and The Underwear Group. Cheryl welcomes debate and exploration and new ways of looking at things. She welcomes it whether the conversation is about her business or about her leadership. So, this episode is called, "The Open Leader." I was struck by Cheryl’s clarity, her openness and her generosity. And by the environment she creates for real give and take. I’m curious what you think.
Adolescent Content believes that content intended for youth would be more impactful if it was conceived and created by youth. Their creators, and directors are as young as 11. They have developed work for iconic brands, shot feature films and given TED talks. Ramaa and I were joined by one of her directors, sixteen year-old Aniya Wolfe, who is a member of Gen Z, which. The oldest member of Gen Z is 21. As Aniya shows in our conversation, this generation is coming of age much much earlier than that.
I’ve known David Slocum for a decade or so. He has a rare gift for combining the theoretical with the practical, and I’ve watched scores of his students become more thoughtful and intentioned leaders as a result of his teaching. One of the areas we talked about was why talented people are willing to work for demanding leaders. ‘Demanding’ sometimes being a euphemism for rude or worse. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week, my conversation with Kim Wijkstrom, the CMO of One Main Financial. He has seen the world of creativity through an extraordinarily diverse set of lenses. He has been in the room with Steve Jobs. He has touched the work of Vincent Van Gogh. He has worked with dynamic companies and rebuilt tired brands. Through it all he has used creativity as a language for change.
This is the one year anniversary episode of Fearless. With each conversation, I find out more about how leaders overcome the obstacles that are part of being human. More about their ambition to make a difference. This week, my conversation with Chris Sojka, the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Madwell. Chris has already owned his own business for eight years and he’s still only 32. I wondered what he’d learned about himself along the way and how leadership has changed him.
Wesley ter Haar is the founder and Chief Operating Officer of MediaMonks, a global creative production company with 11 offices and almost 700 people. We talked about hiring bad people, about how to scale while holding on to your standards, and about the importance of building and maintaining momentum.
This week my conversation with Shannon Lords of Great Bowery Film. We talked about the importance of casting when assembling talented teams, about working with world class directors and about the art and timing of saying no.
Mark is the CEO of Common - a company that accelerates the launch and growth of businesses that take care of the planet and all the creatures on it. He has grown up with and lived with tension in a variety of multiple forms and has been on a journey to discover his through line. My conversation with Mark made me think about my own through line. I hope it does the same for you. I talked to Mark about becoming a Buddhist, about leading from behind and about his fear of what’s possible.
Dan Pink is a rare combination. A powerful storyteller with an extraordinary eye for patterns and truth in a white-out blizzard of data and possibilities. His books have been a big part of my personal journey. His most recent book is called, When - the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing You'll find all his books at DanPink.com. Dan and I talked about when he realized he was a writer, about why writing a book is like a marriage and about how he helped me put a room full of 200 people to sleep.
Lori Bradley is the Executive Vice President of Global Talent Management for PVH Corp. Lori has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Industrial/Organization Psychology and no one that I know, knows more about leadership assessment and development. She also has a masters in English Literature. Lori and I talked about the relationship between fear and creativity, about the importance of experiments in complex organizations, and about the role creativity played in getting her kicked out of vacation bible school.
Singleton Beato is a leader determined to create a better future for everyone. She is the Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer at McCann Worldgroup, and a thought leader and expert in the behaviors and practices organizations must embrace if they want to develop workforces that reflect society. During our conversation, she talked about the role that her race played in her upbringing, about why she waited until she was 32 to go to college, and about how to create environments that embrace differences.
Justin Gignac, co-founder of Working Not Working - an online marketplace for creative freelancers. Our conversation was recorded on-stage at the 4as Talent2030 Conference. Justin Gignac has been a cheerleader, a professional mascot and an entrepreneur. We talked about what it was like to grow up as the son of a clown, about the extraordinarily simple idea that was the genesis of WNW, about the army he’s building, and about what we should be teaching our children.
Bob Pittman has lived several lives in the course of this one. At 28 he gave birth to MTV. Then turned Nickelodeon into a lasting success and launched VH-1 and Nick at Night. He ran Six Flags and Century 21 before becoming COO of AOL-Time Warner. In 2014, Bob became Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia. We talked about the science and showmanship of leading creativity, about tortured geniuses and what he thinks about his failures and his legacy.
Dianne Wilkins is the CEO of Critical Mass - a global digital experience design agency. She is also a talent magnet, drawing people to her with her openness and her commitment to their success. She is also a survivor. We talked about her willingness to jump in, the tragedy that changed her life, and the role that ice cream played in shaping her remarkable career.
Rei Inamoto is unique. And he’s an identical twin. His professional life has encompassed some of the most prominent and powerful leadership positions in the creative industries, including as the worldwide chief creative officer at AKQA. In 2016, he and his partner Rem Reynolds, launched Inamoto and Co - a "business invention studio". Rei and I met in their offices in Brooklyn and talked about the impact of having a twin, of life as an outsider, and about the importance of humility.
My conversation with Kojo Marfo - Director and Founder, My Runway Group Kojo has a passion to change the world. He focuses on social impact through instilling self belief in young adults. His ventures - including adults. His ventures - including myrunwaygroup.com, are targeted at providing a platform for youth development and creative growth.
John Borthwick is the founder and CEO of Betaworks, a New York based start-up studio, and a seed stage venture capital company. Betaworks has built a diverse range of companies that sit at the intersection of media and the intersection of media and technology, including Giphy and TweetDeck. Last year, they launched of a $50 million early-stage fund called Betaworks Ventures. John and I talked about why small is beautiful when it comes to unlocking creativity and about the first time he saw the Internet.
Trevor is renowned for his contribution to society and for encouraging future talent. In 1995 Trevor set up Quiet Storm, the first agency to write, direct and produce its own work. He’s chaired the IPA’s Ethnic Diversity Forum and set up “Create Not Hate” to tackle gun crime by getting disenfranchised youth into advertising and creative projects. He was awarded an OBE in 2009 for his services to charity and advertising. This episode was recorded at the Eurobest festival in London.
Kerrie Finch is the Founder & CEO of FinchFactor - one of the most successful reputation management companies within the creative, tech innovator and startup sectors, with offices in Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles and New York. Kerrie is the founder of SheSays Amsterdam and an ADCN board member. She's also incredibly warm and genuine. I talked to Kerrie at Eurobest in London.
Mindy Grossman is one of only 51 women CEOS of Fortune 1000 companies and she turned HSN into the second best performing Fortune 1000 company of this century. Since taking over as the CEO of Weigh Watchers last summer, the company’s share price and membership have risen dramatically. I talked to Mindy about the life changing decisions she made at 19, about unlocking creativity from the C-Suite and about the importance of Winnie the Pooh.
Vanessa Friedman is the fashion director and chief fashion critic for The New York Times. Her approval is sought by the most famous and successful designers in the world and she has built a reputation as a brilliant, thoughtful and fair judge of what is relevant in this the most creative of industries. I talked to her about the challenge faced by people who make things from their minds, about the importance of structure, and about the high-flying nature of her secret hobby.
Geoff Edwards has been leading on his terms for his entire career. He has been featured on the cover of Creativity Magazine’s inaugural “Creativity 50” and Boards Magazine's “Top 50 Art Directors” In America. Today, he is Head of Creative at CAA Marketing and Co-Founder of SATURDAY MORNING, a coalition for Peace. I talked to Geoff about superheroes and kryptonite, about building a business with Spike Lee, and about the decision he made that he still thinks about.
My conversation with Laura Jordan-Bambach - the Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of Mr President/SheSays She describes the early part of her career as a cyber-feminist-code-hacking artist. Today, she is the Chief Creative Officer and partner of one of London’s most influential agencies, Mr President. She co-founded SheSays, the Great British Diversity Experiment and the Cannt Festival and she was recently named one of the BBC's top 100 innovators.
Ash is one of the UK’s best known comedy producers, responsible for, The Office and the IT Crowd. He has won five BAFTAs and a Golden Globe. In 2007, he co-founded the independent production company, Roughcut TV with Tim Sealey and over the last decade the company has established itself on both sides of the Atlantic with deals with the BBC, NBC and HBO.
Tom Goodwin is the definition of a disruptive thinker. He was recently named one of LinkedIn’s most influential contributors and brings to any conversation a natural unwillingness to accept the status quo. I talked to Tom about the importance of embracing difference in others, about the power of trust and about the freedom of being wrong.
Michael Kassan is perhaps the best connected person in the creative industries. As the founder Chairman and CEO of Medialink, he creates and unlocks relationships at the intersection of Silicon Valley, Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Wall Street. I talked to Michael about the criteria he looks for in people he wants to interact with, about what he’s learned about doing deals on the back of a napkin and about what he loves about being in the room when it happens.
Neil Tardio is a hall of fame film director, responsible for some of the most iconic advertising ever created. His 1977 Xerox commercial, "Brother Dominic", is part of any list of the greatest Super Bowl commercials of all time. I talked to Neil about working with some of the most legendary creative figures of the last fifty years, about the challenges of marrying art and commerce in one of the most pressurized environments, the film set, and about the lasting power of creating simple human connections.
During her career she has been at the heart of some of the most original and disruptive thinking of any of the creative industries. As she approaches the end of her fifth year at Wieden, I talked to her about discovering that months don’t always start on Mondays, about her role as a change agent, and about the one thing she wishes she had more of.
Gerry Laybourne has spent her life unlocking the creativity of others. From her early beginnings as a teacher and film-maker, she created not one but two game-changing networks. First, Nickelodeon, and then the Oxygen network. Along the way, she was named the most influential woman in the entertainment industry and one of the 25 most influential people in America by Time magazine.
Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs are the co-founders of Food52.com. Their goal was to create the first crowd sourced, online cook book. As you will see if you visit the site, they have already achieved much, much more than that - a fully realized food, cooking and lifestyle community and ecommerce destination.
Rosemarie Ryan has been leading creativity almost of her life. She has helped to build some of the most famous and effective creative companies of their time, leaving behind her a wake of improved businesses and more thoughtful people.
Today, she is the CO founder of CO Collective, a strategy and innovation company based in New York.
I talked to Rose about the role her family played in unlocking her leadership at a very early age, about the importance of hard conversations when you’re the leader, and about the role of generosity in her leadership philosophy.
Elizabeth Kiehner is one of the world’s experts on the application of some of the world’s most powerful technology to solve the problems of today and tomorrow.
As the Global Design Practice Director at IBM, she and her team can take the power of Watson - rapidly becoming not just a computer system but in many ways a new form of intelligence - and apply it to the problems of both today and tomorrow.
I talked to Elizabeth about the expansion of natural language technology in our daily lives, about a machine’s ability to edit tennis highlights without human involvement and about how to design solutions for problems that will exist 5 years from now.
Nils Leonard is a self-made success. His journey carried him from humble roots to becoming the chairman and chief creative office of one of the most celebrated ad agencies in London before he turned 40.
Today, he is the co-founder of Uncommon, a company that builds brands that people wished existed in the world. He is a disruptive and somewhat controversial figure.
I met Nils in Uncommon’s London office, and we talked about why tattooing played a critical role in his early life, about what he’s learned about unlocking creative talent, and about his own personal evolution and understanding of what matters most.
Faith Popcorn has spent almost half a century living in the future. She has predicted everything from the inevitable to the unbelievable. Her company, Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve has been instrumental in unlocking what comes next for many the world’s largest companies and most iconic brands.
I met Faith in her townhouse in Manhattan and she talked about the importance of conflict…about why companies hate change…..and about the future of the human race.
Adam Bryant is the creator of ‘The Corner Office’ - a weekly feature of The New York Times - in which he interviews business leaders from diverse industries. The Corner Office has been around since 2008, and if you haven’t come across it, I encourage you to go and explore the library of knowledge and insights it provides.
Wendy Clark is the CEO of DDB, North America. She was namedAd Age’s Executive of the Year for 2017 and she is rewriting the rules of the advertising industry.
She is a wife, the mother of three and one of the most respected and warmly held leaders in today’s creative industries. She will also ‘crush’ you if you underestimate her.
I talked to Wendy about growing up as the outsider, about the place she never takes her phone, and about her mother’s role in helping her pass her poetry class. This is Wendy Clark unfiltered.
Lisa Gersh is a lawyer by training and a leader by instinct. After a career practicing law, she became the co-founder of the Oxygen network, before becoming the CEO of Martha Stewart omni-media and then the CEO of Gwyneth Paltrow’s company, Goop. Along the way, she has proven over and over again, her willingness to listen, to learn and to lead.
Torrence Boone and Lars Bastholm lead their teams to unlock the business and societal potential of Google’s capacity for original thinking, and the company's ability to change the world.
Emma Cookson has been able to filter the noise for brands and businesses from early in her career. She is regarded as one of the foremost brand strategists in the world.
I talked to Emma about how she turned an Oxford university english literature degree into a career in advertising, about her unique definition of a brand and about her personal desire for global domination.
Joanna Coles has been finding and telling stories since she was a young girl. She has been a writer, a publisher, a salesperson, a journalist, a reporter, an editor, an author and on-camera talent in a reality-tv show.
Dan Kish knows more about food than anyone I’ve ever met. He is the embodiment of someone in flow with their work. Someone able to unlock their own creativity and the creativity of others, every day.
I spoke to Eric and Jason about what makes Wieden + Kennedy a relentless creative force, how they are leading the Portland office through its own transformation, and the adjustments they have had to make now that they have become the leaders.
Shelley Zalis, is very much a woman of action who has made the business of equality the focus of this stage of her life and career. A successful entrepreneur in her own right, she founded the Girl’s Lounge to provide professional women a place to support and learn about each other at major conferences.
Steve Shiffman became the CEO of Calvin Klein almost exactly three years ago. In that time he has led what has been described in many circles as a creative revolution.
Steve talked to me about the role creativity has played in his life, about why he decided to disrupt a company known for disruption, and about what he has learned about leading creativity and his own journey in the process.
Nick is the co-founder of Tellart - an experience design company. The experiences they create for their clients range from the playful to the provocative. From the magical to the mind-bending.
Unlocking creativity requires celebrating uncertainty and embracing risk. Most businesses aren't designed that way. Nor are most human beings. Kerry Sulkowicz is a leadership confidant. He is also a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He joins me to talk about the very human challenges that leaders face, the mistakes that most leaders make when stepping into new roles and the deeper human impulses that exist in all of us.
Gina Hadley and Jenny Galuzzo created The Second Shift to provide talented, accomplished, professional women with opportunities to re-enter the workforce on their terms. It is an idea of its time. An idea of this time.
Jim talks to me about how Purpose became part of his professional and personal life, what he has learned about unlocking creativity at scale and about the one thing a leader must do above all else.
Umber Ahmad has lived many lives in one lifetime. Professional violinist at 13. Pilot at 15. Aspiring surgeon at 18. Financier. Investor. Entrepreneur. And finally, (although probably not lastly) baker.
Carter Murray and Susan Credle are one of the advertising industry’s power couples. Smart, brave and generous, they have been partners since January of 2016, building new energy, belief and credibility into their company.
Barry Day is the author of 38 books covering creative luminaries as diverse as Noel Coward, Johnny Mercer and Raymond Chandler.Before he started documenting the life of other creators, he was a legendary ad man responsible for some of the most famous commercials of all time.
Jon Collins, the President of Integrated Advertising at Framestore, runs one of the most multi-disciplinary and technologically complex creative businesses in the world.
Heidi Hackemer is building a brand strategy business in her own unique image - purposeful, opinionated and conscious. The journey that brought her and her company to today covers thousands of miles of reflection and exploration.
Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries are the co-founders and co-CEO's of Refinery29 - a 12 year old media and content company built for, 'the most powerful generation of women around the world.'