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Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business

By Cassie Eberle

Catalyst Public Relations

A synthetic-biologist, a brew master and a White House chef walk into a wine bar… no this isn’t the start of another Beer Summit joke – it’s the beginning of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business 2011 event and proof that, in any industry, creativity is not just an element of success, but at the root of it.

While every speaker had a uniquely inspiring story, I tried to pull out a few common threads that seemed woven into each – the Cliff Notes version, if you will, to a captivating 4 hour discussion.

Find Your Voice, But Don’t Be Confined By It

As marketers, we talk a lot about finding our “Brand voice.” For The Onion, that means always staying in the character of “REAL fake news.” For ESPN, that means never forgetting their mission as sports fans serving sports fans.

What that doesn’t mean is squashing an idea just because it doesn’t seem like an obvious fit. What makes perfect sense in hindsight might have actually started out as a risky move.

If you’re Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and you want to brew a delicious craft beer, the seemingly logical decision would have been to find a new way to mix the old favorites - water, barley and hops. What Dogfish Head did instead was go against tradition and mix in unique, local ingredients such as honey, saffron and melon to create an off-center niche of endless possibilities.

Solve a Problem, Serve a Need

Even if we’re not curing cancer, ideas should serve some sort of purpose – and no, “media coverage” is not a purpose. Reshman Shetty of Ginkgo BioWorks wanted her lab to smell less like a latrine, so she engineered a strain of E.coli that smelled minty fresh (instead of like poo). Alex Kipman of Xbox wanted to create a gaming system that removed the technology and felt more like life. Thus, Kinect was born.

People (and yes, media people too) gravitate towards and respond to products and ideas that help make life easier and more enjoyable. This is not a new concept, just one that can all too often get pushed to the side by sexier buzz words like “social media” and “gamification.”   

Love Your Idea

Loving every idea that pops into your head is ridiculous, however if you don’t love the idea you decide to evolve, how do you expect anyone else to? Leila Janah was told by colleagues and potential investors alike that her idea for a non-profit social business where people in developing countries do data work for blue-chip companies would never get off the ground. But she kept pushing and made it a reality in Samasource, which is now successfully competing against major for-profit players. 

Every idea, good or bad, pretty much has the same genesis story – it’s up to us to grow it in the right direction.

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