SPIKES ASIA - Wayne Arnold, co-founder and global CEO of MullenLowe Profero, is in touch with the lament of many an historian, telling a Spikes audience that, "My fear is that we don't learn from the past."
Only in Arnold's case, he doesn't fear that the industry is doomed to repeat the past, but rather that creatives today are doomed to live forever in the present and are not learning from their predecessors.
With that in mind, the agency is working on a project called "The Naked Portfolio", an effort, in podcast form, to document the inspirations of a group of highly successful creatives and look for commonalities in their experience that others can emulate.
"If we really get it right, we'll be raising the bar for creativity," Arnold said.
Arnold covered five common factors that the leaders profiled in the project, which included Lord David Puttnam, Jose Miguel Sokoloff and Lizi Hammer, among others, have in common.
Family DNA: Many subjects, it turned out, had one "bonkers", "off the charts" parent and another that was more sensible. Arnold cited Australian consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier, whose mom was "a crazy wonderful ceramic artist" and whose father was a judge. The point? A balance of linear and lateral thinking seems to be a key ingredient in success.
While the young creatives in the audience can't do much about their parents, the other four factors are things they can more readily control.
Humility: "Don't believe what you read, that to be brilliant, you have to be a huge personality," Arnold said, citing CEOs like Steve Jobs. The agency's work has revealed that the best creative leaders tend to be a bit quieter, with little ego, and that they are quick to credit those around them.
Endless passion: Here Arnold cited the example of David Blakely of BBDO Melbourne, who paints every day, not for fun, but for a charity he's extermely passionate about.
Patience: Puttnam's film Chariots of Fire took 30 years to come to fruition, Arnold said, while Sokoloff's work in Columbia (see 'Rivers of light' below or Google 'Operation Christmas') took nearly a decade, but perhaps helped put an end to a civil war.
Leadership: All the creatives in the project are strong leaders, Arnold said, but they each found their own style. Puttnam, for example, would sweep the floor on set to show that every person was a critical part of the overall effort. "I do not believe that you are born a leader," Arnold said. "I think you become a leader by working out your own way to lead."
The project asked its subjects simple questions such as what five pieces of work they would put in their ultimate portfolio, what piece of work they wish they had done but didn't, and what person they wish they'd worked with but did not.
While we're not sure Arnold changed any careers within 30 minutes, he did provide food for thought about creativity, and we look forward to seeing more from The Naked Portfolio, which the agency is aiming to release in January.
Here are some examples of the work cited in the project and shown by Arnold during his talk: