Ron Tite attributes much of his overall career success to his work as a comedian. There’s nothing like the pressure of trying to make people laugh to force you to be creative. The Second City-trained funny man, award-winning advertising writer and creative director behind some of the world’s best brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft and Volvo, definitely performs. He inspires – and makes’em laugh (not to mention cry, and cringe and dream). The founder and CEO of The Tite Group has a book coming out this month, Everyone’s An Artist (Or At Least They Should Be), which shows how and why many successful executives and entrepreneurs think like artists. It also challenges everyone else to be more creative, or face falling behind in today’s rapidly changing digital economy. Below is part of our conversation with Tite on the book and why comedy helps his career both on and off stage:
What’s the book about?
The book is about how creativity gives you the edge in everything you do. What that means is, we are living in complicated, busy times where people used to vote with their wallets, but now they vote with their time. Getting peoples’ time and cutting through is challenging. Creativity is helping people in all walks of life. You need it to stand out from the crowd, which is easy to say and more difficult to do. In the book, myself and (co-authors) Scott Kavanagh and Christopher Novais (from The Art of Productions) identify behaviours that artists do to be creative, and how the rest of us can incorporate those into our lives.
How should we interpret your book title, Everyone’s an Artist?
I think we all desperately want to be artists. We also have that innate ability to be artists. Somewhere along the way it gets beaten out of us. The good news is, today, it’s never been easier to be creative and people are tapping into that. Ideas aren’t in short supply, execution of ideas is.
How are artists different?
They get things done. When they have an idea, they just do it to do it. They don’t over analyze it first. An example is Blue Man Group. Picture them pitching that to a venture capitalist or brand manager before they just started doing it. They may never have gone ahead. Today, they’re a successful international entertainment company.
How does your book apply to those in the marketing and advertising industry?
It’s complicated; there are so many different channels and consumer behaviours. I get that people are under pressure to deliver, but I find that we are chasing channels, views and vanity metrics to show that we are doing the right things. However, at the end of the day, it’s all about the sale and growth —and I’m not sure all of the activities marketers are doing are delivering growth. They are delivering metrics. I don’t care what channel you’re on or what app you’re using — you’re battling for time. We have to get back to realizing that we have to win time. To win time you have to be unique, different, compelling and creative.
Creativity comes from people. How can the industry find and hire more creative talent?
What the industry looks for typically are people who have experience not only in the industry, but a category or with a client. What you typically end up with is a group of people doing what they did the last time. There is no fresh thinking. An artist doesn’t say, ‘I only paint in blue.’ They create. From a recruitment standpoint, we need to look at people who have completely different skillsets and bring a fresh perspective.
How did writing the book shape what you look for in employees and how you run The Tite Group?
I always believed the things I wrote, but there’s a reason why people with great faith go back to church. They need a reminder. I work on being open to trying new things everyday. The book helped to reinforce my perspective.
Lastly, how has comedy shaped your success to date?
It has been the best training of my career, for a couple of reasons: One, there are no excuses. Either they laugh or they don’t. It’s all on you. At the same time, there are no rules. That’s filled with pressure, but can also be incredibly empowering because there is so much freedom with that. Second, it helps with handling feedback. If you tell a juicy punch line that has worked 99 times and it does work the 100th time, it’s a really horrible experience — to hear that silence. There is no boardroom environment that I’ve ever been part of that comes close to that. If they don’t get it, whatever. I’ve faced worse.