Leadership in the creative industries

16 Jan

While reflecting on a recent OST Advisory Services meeting I began to realize just how inherently creative the act of consulting is. It is the ability to imagine the future state, communicate it to a client, and then get them excited about the process.  And in my mind, a group of disassociated quotes I have written in my journal the last few months came together.

Jim VanderMey

It started with Francis Oda, a man I have followed for a while as he is lead pastor of his church. Oda is a 70-year old chairman of Group 70, an award-winning global architecture firm in Hawaii. He’s also a PhD Professor of Architecture at the University of Hawaii.

There are a couple of things I like about Dr. Oda:

One, he still actively designs buildings. How many chairmen of 100-person businesses still perform the frontline duties at the core of their operations?

“It’s critical to design while leading the firm,” he told PBN. “You cannot lead a business you remember from long ago. To succeed, one has to be engrossed in the current creativity of the business, and its future realities. Unless you’re actually doing it, how would you know? In my mind, architecture is a hands-on business. The great pleasure is in design, not managing the business.”

Two, he is directly involved in growing Group 70’s business, taking it to new heights. To put it plainly — closing deals. When we describe it to him that way, Oda laughs.

“In [architecture] school, if you said the word ‘sales’ it would be anathema — yet, that’s what it is,” he said. “The best salespeople are so enthusiastic they are compelling — it’s the power to compel people to act in a way you want them to act, the ability to understand what the person’s dreams and visions are and how to fashion something that would address these in creative, fresh ways, whether in the design or in a business deal.”

It is the creative envisioning of customer problems and future states in a compelling fashion that is the central skill of a great consultant.

Rabbit trail to a statement by George Lucas:

“Don’t avoid cliche’s, they are cliches because they work” — sometimes the repetitive, seemingly trite thing that we have done before is precisely what we need to do while in the creative process because it has been proven to work, time and time again.

Followed by my favorite quote from Marty Sklar, from Dream It! Do It! My Half Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdom (former head of Disney’s Imagineering Group):

“There are two ways to look at a blank sheet of paper.  It can be the most frightening thing in the world because you have to make the first mark on it.  Or, it can be the most exciting thing in the world because you get to make the first mark on it.”  The kind of people that are excited to by the first to make a mark on the blank page will be the ones that can enter into this creative, collaborative conversation with a customer.

Finally, another quote from Sklar’s book.  The economist Harrison “Buzz” Price who was Disney’s numbers guy that did the work on buying the property for Disneyland and Walt Disney World and was one of the leaders in economic market research in the 60s and 70s (one of the inventors of the modern discipline).
“Yes, if…” is the language of the deal maker, and “No, because…” is the language of a deal killer.  If the idea is sound are we Yes, if-ers or No-becausers?

There is more to my chain of thought here, but I will leave that for another post sometime.  But I think that as we think about transformative services, new style of IT, high-level consulting and what it means to be engaged in advanced technical presales the creativity, temperament and mindset of the individuals involved is the key success factor for taking our customer engagements to the next level — coupled with the organizational ability to lead a team collectively into a successful conclusion.


Jim VanderMey, Chief Innovation Officer at OST

Jim VanderMey has served as VP of Technical Operations, CTO and now Chief Innovation Officer for OST. Jim has provided the technical leadership and product strategic planning for the organization since the very beginning. Jim is a technology visionary who sets the long and short-term direction for OST. He specializes in seeing the “big picture” of technology, industry trends and the business objectives supported by IT. As OST has gained an international reputation, Jim has taught and spoken at conferences in Europe, Japan, and throughout the US. Lastly, we must confess that some of OST’s peculiar culture is a direct derivation of Jim’s unorthodox style.

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