creative leader

Sep 11, 2017

In an age where art and science collide more often than ever, a new breed of creative leader is on the rise. This leader is part craft and part conductor, resulting in an orchestrated concert of left-brain and right-brain characteristics, and they are critical to your successful transition to a non-siloed organization.

When I say “creative leader,” I’m not referring solely to the traditional creative director at an agency, nor someone whose primary craft is art or design. By creative, I’m honing in on the root of the concept: bringing something significant into existence.

With the major shifts we’re seeing toward digital, today’s visionary creative leaders must be “brain-balanced” featuring a healthy near-equilibrium of right-brain and left-brain traits allowing them to continually bouncing back and forth frequently and fluidly. In the marketing industry, the art of doing so is a necessity as the interconnectedness between data, technology, UX and creativity build tighter bonds.  

Humans already use both sides of their brains on the daily—and scientists argue that brain asymmetry is essential for proper brain function. By taking a conscious, hyper-collaborative approach to exercising both sides, the result is a new kind of meeting of the minds. In the generalized sense, left-brained people tend to be analytical, methodical, and process-oriented. Left-brainers tend to do well in programming, coding, law, and think in terms of “if this, then that.”

Right-brain–dominant people tend to be artistic, emotionally intuitive, free-thinking, with one idea leading randomly to another. Right-brainers are often intuitive, thinking metaphorically and outside the box, conjuring creative thoughts and ideas that break convention.

The brain-balanced are a hybrid of analysis and imagination, spouting organized and free-flowing thoughts, along with technological capabilities and ideas of how to use them in a new way. They are people like The Basketball Tournament Founder Jon Mugar, MIT Media Lab Director Joichi Ito, and Rodrigo Martinez, the Chief Marketing & Design Officer at Veritas Genetics. The new breed are wranglers of many moving pieces of a complex, yet-to-be fully realized puzzle.

Elon Musk is the best example; he excels at breaking down old models of thinking and invents new ways of doing. The best of these leaders may call themselves one thing but truly represent a combination of skills—they are artistic technologists, communicative data scientists, and articulate creative strategists. And perhaps most importantly, they facilitate the creative process that involves team of right-brainers and left-brainers alike.

Using both sides of the brain in business equals innovation

Today’s new leaders must make sense of various inputs from various disciplines, including strategy, users, search, web analytics, design, personalization, devices, and technology platforms. These elements must work in unison, and how well they are connected determines the effectiveness of an overall campaign or experience.

In the advertising world, one of the reasons traditional agencies have struggled with evolving to meet the digital needs of their customers is that they’re still adopting a creative waterfall approach to integrated, digital campaigns. In the traditional model, creatives and strategists work for weeks or even months on an idea only to introduce the concept to the digital team after the idea is already fully-baked. At Genuine, we do things differently. We include data analysts and developers early and often, so that people with various skill sets and strengths collaborate throughout the entire production process.

Businesses need to restructure their creative process

In the digital marketing world, the “creative waterfall” approach is a process that misses the opportunity to incorporate a diverse set of experts to help shape an idea so that it can be a natively digital idea from the onset. Most teams in marketing and innovative companies today are constructed to mirror left- and right-brain functions. However, they fail to make the connection between these teams. And that’s the miss: leaving developers to the end of a waterfall is huge misstep. Developers and engineers need to be a part of strategy and creative processes to make ideas as good as they can be. Every team must be part of the new creative process—not just the creatives.

To learn more about how Genuine can help you with you digital, creative, tech and media needs, reach out to us at

Chris Pape is Founder and CCO of Genuine, a born digital creative, tech and media agency that believes brands must “invent together” to win in today’s connected economy.