Creativity is essential across every discipline
Hello Sunshine’s Sarah Harden says that it is critical to surround yourself with creative people – like her business partner Reese Witherspoon – when building a media brand, especially one that produces content that elevates women
How would you define creativity – is it a process, an idea, a talent?
I think creativity is a practice – one that comes naturally to some but for others it needs to be fostered, harnessed, in some cases protected, and in others unleashed. In a world that’s noisy and busy, it’s a practice we need to create time and space for – intentionally. As leaders in companies, we need to create conditions that foster, encourage and support creativity, creative thinking and quality creative execution.
What difference does being creative make to the way in which you approach opportunities/problems?
It feels absolutely essential. With opportunities harder to come by and problems becoming even more intractable, I need to approach them with even higher quality original thinking, greater imagination and more curiosity. I also find that being creative provides the joy that makes the rest of the work you have to do in driving an organisation forward feel more tenable.
How did being creative enable you to deliver something positive – something that has made a difference to people's lives?
Honestly, I think we have built Hello Sunshine really creatively. Right from the beginning, we were driven by a clear intention to build in very specific ways – building direct to consumer in parallel with building premium content studios that were able to deliver multi-platform and centre the company around books, and then build in a way that enabled each of our business leaders to work closely with Reese with full creative authorship. It might seem obvious looking back, but it wasn’t five years ago. I hope the path we have forged helps others get female-centred stories made, and out into the world. We know we still all have so much work to do.
Who has inspired you creatively?
Reese inspires me so much creatively. She’s an extraordinary thinker and, of course, she’s been a creative force as an actress and producer her whole career. But she also brings her deep well of creativity to every conversation – even about operational things. She has a way of posing a question from a different angle that just makes me look at something in a completely new way. It’s such a gift to have that in a partner. She also brings humour, playfulness and joy to the table, which are exactly what you need when fostering a creative environment at a company. It’s been truly inspiring to build this company with her and our whole team.
What have you learned from thinking creatively that will inform your next project, role, endeavour?
The importance of play and free, unconstrained thinking in generating really creative ideas. In companies where we are so focused on executing, we have to work hard to set conditions, deliberately, that foster this creative thinking. It’s as important for finance and operating teams as it is for people who work in more traditional ‘creative roles’. Creativity is essential across every discipline, and the experience of building Hello Sunshine has taught me to be more intentional about creating conditions that make it possible. We must work at it.
How important is it to surround yourself with other creative thinkers, perhaps people that think differently from you?
I just think it’s so mission-critical. No one person has a monopoly on creative ideas – if you have a brain then you are a creative thinker. As leaders, our job is to set conditions that welcome creative ideas from the widest range of people. A breakthrough idea doesn’t come from pedestrian thinking or uniform thinkers. And if we want to compete and thrive in today’s world, it’s incumbent on us to make sure we are inviting diverse perspectives and thinkers into the conversations in order to drive our companies, products and culture forward.
20 June 2022