You, Your Business and Borderless Creativity


It’s a Leonardo Da Vinci kind of thing…also an Elon Musk or Google kind of thing.

Borderless Creativity is based on the realization that there often are not “real” borders that keep us from crossing over into new territories for exploring our creativity. It is also seeing that the more we do move past these invisible borders, the richer life becomes. Da Vinci ignored the borders of art, science, architecture, and design to express his creativity to the fullest. Today, Elon Musk’s companies or Google’s enterprises cross all borders of enterprise definition to open opportunities for creativity for themselves and the great talent they attract.

Oh, it is not that borders don’t exist, they do and they can be formidable, but they exist primarily in the mind. At a meeting I attended recently the Marketing Director took me aside and asked, “Why is the CFO here, we are talking about brand building?” (function pigeon-holing is one of the mental borders that persists in business today). There also are invisible borders limited by traditional marketing and conventional business thinking that are keeping entire enterprises from breaking into new value creating and life enriching territories of possibility. But to open these borders of creative contribution, it does take, ironically, a bit of creativity and a big splash of courage to pull it off. The borders that exist in the mind are as daunting to challenge, if not more so, than any physical barrier.

Today, more than ever, innovative individuals and standout companies are awakening to the power of borderless creativity. An article in Harvard Business Review shows that of all the top Luxury Brands, those that out performed all the others, over a ten year period, were brands that were part of a “borderless” house of brands (LVMH, Kering, Richemont). In these companies where the borders between their many brands were porous, people could move between the brands to expand and open new frontiers of their own creativity, while, at the same time, greatly enhancing the collective creativity and performance of each of brands to which they contributed. The learning and cross-pollinating of creativity was essential to the houses-of-brands success in outperforming individual luxury brands.

Two amazing women come to mind when I think about borderless creativity…Diane McArter and Ivy Ross. Both women first crossed the gender border to create a path in business that is uniquely theirs, traversing multiple borders all along their creative journeys.

Diane (Di) McArter is the founder and CEO of three enterprises…Furlined, Jefferson and Love Child. As a woman in a male dominated industry, she crossed that big gender border to create a woman owned, highly successful production company. Then in the last few years she created her three-enterprise combination because she recognized that creative people, directors/producers/staff, in her advertising and entertainment production industry need multiple ways to express themselves. Di found that Furlined, her first enterprise, while highly successful, had to live within rules and regulation borders too small for the great talent she was attracting. Moviemakers want to do commercials, and commercial makers want to make long form films. And the world needs the entirely new forms of content, experiences and creative expression that these creative, talented Directors were hungry to provide. To make this possible, Di created the three-enterprise system that invites Talent to move freely across the enterprise borders to express their creativity in ways that are bounded only by their imagination.

Within her enterprise staff, Di has encouraged borderless creativity as well. Financial people are using their pragmatic creativity to help shape brand building. Sales people have gone beyond just selling to becoming strategic liaisons to clients while also shaping creative projects and participating in the building of the three brands. Management leaders in Di’s companies cross the borders of their professions to become brand ambassadors and play a key role in opening the international growth for all three enterprises.

Seeing people as whole beings who can do so much more than is limited by their labeled profession or by the product they produce, Di is building a new form of multi-enterprise creative environments designed to nurture the full creative potential of each person.

Recognized and awarded for their creativity, Di’s new enterprises combined with a new international expansion, are already registering success and the three-enterprise system is attracting top talent in all areas of professional and creative expression.

Ivy Ross is the personification of individual borderless creativity. Ivy has combined an artist’s aesthetic sensibilities with brand savvy acumen to craft a career that has crossed multiple borders. Ivy was a jewelry designer running her own business, an artist whose designs have been in the Smithsonian and Victoria and Albert museums. Then Ivy served as VP Design & Development Bausch & Lomb and later as President of Calvin Klein Men’ Accessories. At Mattel Ivy was SVP World-wide Product Design & Development. Then Ivy served in several roles at Gap Inc. — EVP Design & Development at Gap Inc./Old Navy, EVP Marketing Gap. While at GAP Inc, Ivy developed a company-wide Innovation Program called Mind Sparks designed to strengthen innovation and open more people to their own creative power. Ivy was also Chief Creative Officer for The Disney Stores and CMO of Currently Ivy is a top executive at Google, leading hundreds of Google’s best talent, crossing the borders of consumer products and tech to create something unique and leading edge…stay tuned — knowing Ivy, it will be amazing.

Whether art, design, leadership and management, innovation, breakthrough reinvention or entrepreneurship, in retail or tech, Ivy has always blown past the borders of titles, labels and categorization to allow her creativity to express itself. She is a role model for what it is like for individuals to let their creativity lead their careers and not let career paths become self-limiting borders.

Key Message — If art is what artists do, then creating is what creative people do. Creative people (and we all can be if we allow ourselves…we really don’t need to be Da Vinci to be creative) thrive on creative new challenges that recognize no borders. If companies want to attract creative talent, a major issue for most industries today, they need to redesign their business models so that they open up as many borders of creativity as possible.

There are many more creative people out there like Ivy and Di ready to show what they can do. Find them, encourage them, back them, and do all you can to help them express their natural borderless creativity. The future will not be predicted but it will be created.

— Dan & Meredith Beam, Principals, BEAM, inc.