Episode 1: Introduction to The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership

By Tony Vengrove

7 C's of Creative Leadership

Welcome to the first episode of The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership!  We’re excited to kick off this nine-part series about what it really takes to lead innovation and foster a culture of creativity.

In this introductory episode, co-host Todd Schnick and I lay a foundation for the series.  Specifically, we:

  • Define important terms: innovation, creativity, creative leadership.
  • Share the inspiration behind The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership.
  • Discuss why developing creative leadership competencies are so critical.
  • Provide an overview for each of the Seven C competencies: Communication, Curiosity, Creativity, Connecting, Culture, Change Management, and Courage.

The lack of creative-leadership abilities among corporate leaders represents the biggest leadership abyss in business today. We’re here to serve you by sharing critical skills and competencies that will unleash the creative potential of your employees.

Be sure to join us next Monday for Episode Two.  We’ll welcome Perry Baldwin, COO of The Family Room, who will share his wisdom on how to use the power of communication to inspire people to think more creatively. In addition, Perry explains why objectives are so critical when leading productive conversations about your organization’s ideas.

You can follow the show and listen to archived episodes at our official landing page at Business in the Morning.

Tony VengroveMiles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Introducing The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership Podcast Series

By Tony Vengrove

7 C's of Creative Leadership

Since Miles Finch Innovation opened its doors in 2012, we’ve championed the development of creative leadership capabilities for our C-Suite clients. For over 10 years, I’ve had the privilege of leading corporate innovation teams; I can tell you first hand that the lack of creative-leadership skills represents the biggest leadership abyss in corporate America today. It’s why nearly every CEO who says she’s committed to innovation, also confesses she’s underwhelmed with the quality of ideas in the pipeline.

To fill this critical void, I’m thrilled to announce that Miles Finch Innovation, on Monday August 25th, is launching an exciting new podcast series entitled, “The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership.” We’ve partnered with the amazing Todd Schnick of Dreamland Media to produce a nine-part series illustrating each Seven C Competency: communication, curiosity, creativity, connecting, culture, change management and courage. We have a fabulous AAA lineup of guests who operate on the frontline of innovation. They’re going to share their firsthand perspective of what it really takes to lead innovation and foster a culture of creativity.

We’re going to arm you with practical applications that can be put into practice immediately, so you can model the powerful behaviors of an effective creative leader. You’ll put yourself, and your organization, on a path to creativity and successful innovation.

“A creative leader fosters the conditions for others to be creative.”

What is Creative Leadership? While the term has been bandied about for some time, it’s gaining increased attention as corporate leaders recognize innovation requires an ability to inspire and manage creativity—something they have very little experience at. Unlike many who think creative leadership requires demonstrating one’s personal creativity, we believe it’s far more important for a creative leader to foster the conditions for others to be creative.

Why is Creative Leadership so important? Once a company makes the commitment to innovate, they’re essentially making creativity a cultural pillar. Since most companies are process-oriented and their leaders have great analytical prowess, it’s no surprise that a tug-of-war quickly forms between the logical and creative thinkers. Can you guess who wins?

The problem is, most companies leap into innovation doing what they do best: creating processes and business systems that provide order and control. They set up the innovation department, create the governance, and put their top-tier managers in control. From the get-go, the innovation function is designed to play by the rules of the existing culture, which is usually hell-bent on guarding the status quo. It’s no wonder so many potentially-disruptive ideas are eventually shot down.

“Become a better steward of your company’s greatest asset: employee creativity!”

What can you expect to gain from this series?  We desire to establish a conversation that moves beyond the philosophical level of innovation and creativity. This series will provide pragmatic, actionable insights leaders will want to put into practice immediately. We want to inspire you to become better stewards of your company’s greatest asset: employee creativity!

Who are you going to be inspired by? They’re leaders in F500, advertising, consulting, and an acclaimed international author.  Here they are:

Introduction:  Co-hosts Todd Schnick and Tony Vengrove

Communication: Perry Baldwin, COO, The Family Room

Curiosity: Steve Kazanjian, Founder, Steve Kazanjian, LLC

Creativity: David Bonner, Chief Creative Officer, Marriner Marketing

Connecting: Max Mckeown, Author of The Innovation Book

Culture: Tim Murphy, VP Digital & Media, Pernod Ricard

Change Management: Jeff Shuck, CEO of Plenty

Courage: Denis Budniewski, EVP, Director of Account Leadership at Campbell Mithun

Series Wrap-Up: Ivy Ross, Head of Google Glass.

How you can access this content? Catch each episode of The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership by visiting this page, beginning August 25th and each Monday thereafter.  Mark it on your calendar in red ink!

In addition, on Thursdays, we’ll post a reflective blog on each “C” right here at www.MilesFinchInnovation.com. These articles will provide a summary of each podcast episode, along with key action items and reflective questions.

We hope you’ll join us for this important conversation!  It’s going to change your company’s culture! Creative leadership is the new frontier of leadership theory. It represents the missing piece in the leader’s tool-belt that will foster the innovative culture so desperately needed.

We welcome you to read our foundational post on the Seven C’s of Creative Leadership. If you want to learn more about the Creative Leadership training programs Miles Finch Innovation offers, please email us at info@milesfinchinnovation.com.

Know Precedes No

By Tony Vengrove

Know Button

Today’s frenetic business pace invites alacrity and quick decision-making. Most of us have jam-packed schedules and to-do lists that rarely are completely checked-off by the end of the day. We dash into a 30-minute meeting knowing that if people start asking too many questions, a debate will erupt and we’ll never make the next meeting on time.

The preponderance of back-to-back meetings puts pressure on leaders to quickly get a lay of the land, make a hurried decision, and then race off to the next appointment. This cadence may work well for core-business matters, such as a budget meeting or review of project priorities, but that mindset is dangerous to bring into an innovation meeting.

When an idea is pitched to us, with adrenaline still racing through our system and our eyes on the clock, we set ourselves up for a quick yes or no response. If a presenter can’t quickly demonstrate the links between her idea to both corporate strategy and consumer needs, the idea is usually DOA.

A new idea is a fragile entity, rarely fully formed without flaw. What may sound brilliant to some can sound absurd to others. One thing all ideas share, however, is potential; some have more potential than others, but all have some level of opportunity. This is so important because the only way to access the idea’s potential is to keep it alive long enough so a broader group of minds can possibly shape it into a brilliant diamond.

Rushing, delivering a hasty “No” verdict, denies the opportunity to “Know” if the idea truly has potential or not. It wipes out the opportunity to experiment and learn – trying, failing, and learning are critical stepping-stones to any breakthrough idea.

Before we say no to any idea, we should be sure that we gave the opportunity due diligence; to fully understand what the presenter saw that was so exciting and relevant for the business. Remember, your team is taking time to think, create and package an idea. If you cut the discussion off too quickly, you’ll frustrate them. Do this too often and they’ll stop bringing ideas to you.

Back in my early advertising days, I recall a critical time on a cold medicine account that demanded a lot of creative thinking in a short window of time. We were working feverishly to turn insights from a major research project into a new advertising campaign before the next cold-season struck. On a hot NYC summer afternoon, a large group of us gathered in a conference room. The diverse team included some of the most senior-level executives in the agency, down to the most junior (that was me).

As the session unfolded, the conversation grew heated, ideas bouncing around wildly. As I sat and listened, I suddenly had an epiphany. I humbly raised my hand and spoke: “It seems to me that all our ideas are from the perspective of the cold sufferer. What if we flipped that around and looked through the lens of the cold virus? If you think about it from that perspective, our brand becomes the virus’s worst enemy. It could be a differentiating way to communicate our benefits and may give our creative team an opportunity to have some fun.”

“Hmmm, that’s interesting,” someone said. Then dead silence until the senior strategy-person spoke up and essentially guillotined my idea. It died then and there, completely dismissed.

Fast forward to the following winter. I was now working at a new agency and memories of that meeting were forgotten. One Saturday, as I listened to music on my car radio, on came an advertisement for that cold-medicine brand and, wouldn’t you know it, the campaign was using my idea – personified cold-viruses frightened to death of the product.  “Hey, that’s my idea!”

Although my original concept hit the proverbial brick wall, another creative team grabbed onto it. They kept it alive, refined it, made it better and sold it. They took the time to get to know the idea before they judged it.

So when I propose that “Know” should precede “No,” all I’m suggesting is that we give our ideas the time and due diligence they deserve. The next time someone shares an idea, and your gut is just begging for you to say no for expediency’s sake, take a breath and try to understand why the person senses opportunity. What is it they see that you don’t? Ask why the idea is on strategy. If it’s not on strategy, explain why you feel that way and make sure they leave the meeting understanding why it’s missing the mark.

When you do that, you keep the idea alive and empower people to continue thinking about how to bring it back on strategy so that it addresses your concerns. In essence, they walk away knowing why you said no – at least for now.

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation.  We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges.  We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership.  Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Related Posts:

The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership

The Toyota Jump & Power of Objective Based Leadership

Innovation Agility: The Constant Shift Between Creativity & Logic


On Curiosity


By Tony Vengrove

Hard to Be Curious

In the 7 C’s of Creative Leadership, curiosity is a key attribute for cultivating creativity and imagination.  “Why?” and “Why not?” are the kinds of questions to accomplish this.  These simple questions increase your rational and emotional intelligence of any challenge and will always point you in the right direction.  Curiosity is the engine that drives us toward the Truth; and when we objectively fully comprehend an opportunity then, and only then, will we develop the solutions that resonate and engage the curiosity of our target consumers.

Curiosity also leads to empathy.  It allows us to appreciate what it feels like to walk in our customers’ shoes.  Great advertising, design and innovation, all evoke empathy re the consumer experience in a fresh, original way.  This is why breakthrough creative work elicits responses such as, “It’s like they know exactly who I am,” or “This is precisely how I feel.”

Nowadays we’re all racing at breakneck speed.  Unfortunately, there’s an inverse relationship between speed and curiosity.  The faster you move, the more difficult it is to develop a deep understanding.  Curiosity requires time for immersion and conversation.  Creative leaders must factor this into projects; teams must have the space to search for hidden Truths.

This will allow our imaginations to run wild!

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation.  We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges.  We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership.  Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Related Posts:

The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership

Creative Inspiration Served up at the 99U Conference

Innovation Agility: The Constant Shift Between Creativity & Logic

Belief Creates Bandwidth

By Anthony Vengrove

iStockphoto Confirm # 131217-9224286-278

‘Tis the season to believe.  I’m a big believer — and not just during the holiday season.

Since leaving my corporate career in January 2012, I started Miles Finch Innovation, have almost completed a masters in Leading Innovation and Change, reveled in the birth of our adorable twins (and survived the subsequent sleep deprivation), moved both my business and family from Virginia to Connecticut, worked on many interesting client projects, spoke at some fantastic events — and that’s just naming a few things!

Whenever I tell my friends about all the projects I’m chasing, I usually get the same reaction: “Wow, how do you manage to get all that done?”  My answer is simple, “I believe in what I’m doing.”

Belief has the power to increase bandwidth.  It can turn a job into a calling.  I’ve found both my productivity and ability to generate ideas have increased since I’ve ventured into entrepreneurism.  I don’t seem to mind a busy schedule or putting in extra hours.  I welcome tough problems for they provide an opportunity to deliver great solutions.  My capacity and energy always seem to be in abundance when belief is present.

As a small business owner, my belief is ultimately centered on one thing — myself.   I’m a loyal advocate of the mantra, “If you believe it, you will see it.”  And I believe I’m building something great.  The moment I don’t believe in myself is when I’m most vulnerable.  It’s when my ego tries to convince me that I’m not good enough, that there are others out there better than I, or that someone else has already pursued my ideas.  Belief is the beacon that allows me to re-align with my goals; guiding me through the foggy sections of the journey when vision isn’t always clear.  Or, when the path seems particularly treacherous.

Belief is a catalyst.  It has magical ability to invite extraordinary amounts of creative thinking and problem solving out of our minds and into the open.  Suddenly, everything seems like it is a possibility.  That’s Idea Climate Equation®why belief is the most important variable in our Idea Climate Equation® for its presence is sure to catalyze creativity exponentially.

What is belief exactly?  It is simply the absence of doubt.  Believing is about acceptance and appreciation of what we deem to be true.  When an idea is shared among believers — people look for opportunity and potential.  When doubt reigns, ideas are skeptically judged with little regard for their fragile, not-fully-formed nature.  Nothing amputates creative thinking faster than a modest dose of doubt.

Believers value faith.  Disbelievers value proof.  It’s a conflict that often favors the doubters for they can dust off history’s data and experiences to craft a conveniently logical argument why something won’t work.  That is much easier to do than to defend a seemingly absurd idea and transform it into zeitgeist.

That’s why I find Henry Ford’s quote about belief to be so provoking:  “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”  Or, Theodore Roosevelt’s take, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”  If uncertainty always scared people away from their beliefs and dreams, great successes would often just be the byproduct of luck.

For uncertainty requires courage; and belief begets courage.

So as we say goodbye to 2013, let’s use our holiday break to pause and reflect upon what’s been learned over the past twelve months.  Set big audacious goals for 2014.  Dream big.  Build up the courage to start something new.

Believe you can do it.  I know you can.

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation.  We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges.  We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership.  Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Related Posts:
The Components of an Idea Climate
The Seven C’s of Creative Leadership