Human Intelligence

What role does creativity have in the business world?
Answered by Sir Richard Branson and Hugh Panero
  • Sir Richard Branson

    Sir Richard Branson

  • Hugh Panero

    Hugh Panero

  1. Sir Richard Branson Founder, Virgin Group


    I love creating things. I sometimes compare, maybe slightly presumptuously, an entrepreneur to an artist. You have a blank piece of canvas, and you're trying to make people's lives better in a particular area, so you're filling in every aspect of that canvas. It's great fun trying to take on, say, a big goliath, especially if they've become a bit fat and a bit bloated, and do it a bit better than they've done it. Give the public something which they can enjoy, and you can be proud of creating. I have great difficulty in life saying no, so if I get frustrated by something or feel it can be done differently or better, I'm apt to say yes.

    The problem is I surround myself with yes-people. I mean Jean Oelwang, who runs Virgin Unite, just before I came to this meeting she was laying out an idea for a sort of business group of elders. Yesterday we were talking about an oceanic group of elders. They're wonderful ideas, very difficult to -- the world needs -- the oceans need looking after. The business community can help the elders in fulfilling their needs and so on. So difficult to say no to, and I'm the sort of person who most likely will end up saying yes.

    Good leadership is simply about being -- really loving people, being great at motivating people, being great at bringing out the best in people. Lots of praise. Do not criticize. That's what makes a good leader.

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  2. Hugh Panero Venture Partner, NEA


    It's a hard question because it really depends on what sort of markets you're going after. I think the first thing is that you have to identify creatively and innovatively who your customer is or what it is that you're trying to provide to somebody and taking into account all of those people's needs and then understanding what the tools around you are to help you reach that goal of delivering that.

    I think the other thing with a lot of these companies, in terms of the creativity, is that when we invest or when I have been hired or worked to create businesses, I know that the people looking at me are not saying, "This is gonna be some straight line of success from here to here." The creativity and the innovation come at every single moment along the way, where there's gonna be some obstacle that you haven't anticipated. It's gonna be thrown in front of you, and it's how you react to that obstacle that I think separates out the talented people from the people who are kind of just managing a business plan.

    There's a certain magic with creativity and innovation. I'm not saying that I have it. I think I'm pretty good at leading people through to a goal. I think there are people that I've met or talked to and interacted with, like John Hendricks or Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos. There's something a little magical about what they see, and they can see it with a lot of noise going on and can still sort of work to that point. I don't really know how to define it, but it's a lot like pornography. You know it when you see it.

    I think many of us -- when we meet people and have worked with people, you sort of you know it when you see it. These people are innovative. They're creative. If it's a for-profit endeavor that we're talking about, it's really kind of understanding the real economics of it because there's a lot of things that are great ideas but they don't make business sense.

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