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Blog: creative leadership

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Creativity is people

ISE Development Conference Keynote Speaker


Chris Baréz-Brown, author and founder of Upping Your Elvis, helps businesses become more human, energetic and creative. Ahead of taking his position as keynote speaker at the ISE Student Development Conference & Awards on 28 March, he shares ideas on creative leadership. 


I spent many years of my life helping big companies become more innovative. I have had some big successes and some big failures. For every company whose sale price went up by $1 billion there were 10 that shrugged off the work and carried on as they had done rather averagely before. 

It was a game of chance with too many moving pieces for me to guarantee success.

There was a seminal moment when after rolling out an insight process for one of the biggest companies in the world, I was asked if I could run a masterclass for those who needed help moving up to the next level of creative leadership genius.

I wrote a program and got them all together in the States.

When I asked them how many insight projects they had run since we gave them the process, one guy leaping out of his seat said, ‘16!’

I was impressed.

That’s a lot of work.

When I asked him to describe some of these projects, it became obvious that they were all run identically.

They took three days, had three phases and delivered the same average results.

Then it struck me.

I had successfully taught him how to run an insight process but not at all how to be insightful.

Every project is unique. Just like every day is unique. The best creative leaders see themselves as facilitators and are constantly changing the way that they work
and where they work as the unique context of today will be very different tomorrow. 

What they are brilliant at answering is “what is needed here?” and as that is constantly changing, so do they.

This means not always relying upon research, numbers, data and facts but valuing the things that cannot be counted: there was a sign allegedly outside Albert Einstein’s door that said “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that is counted, counts.”  

Every project has different contexts, stakeholders, inputs and outputs, budgets, talent and history.

Therefore, every project needs a different approach.

One size does not fit all.

And that’s where people come in.

You need creative leaders who can create the conditions for others to shine.

They need to be confident enough to make mistakes and learn from them.

They need to be aware enough to ask the question ‘what’s needed here?’ and not just the process that they have learnt.

Their energy and flexibility will be the key to legacy. 

That inspiration will help everyone on a team be comfortable to be themselves.

It’s the people that generate the genius and not just the tools.

We all have all we need right now to be brilliant at what we do. It’s just that we often lose touch with what it is that makes us special and unique.  

We tend to socialise to the norms so that we fit into to the business culture. We don’t need to change to be brilliant, we just need to switch off our autopilot, become more conscious and understand who we really are.

If we all learn how to celebrate our uniqueness, we will feel like we can truly self-express. Then, creativity is golden.

We create. We are creation. 

You can follow Chris Baréz-Brown @barezbrown 

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