Words from 6 of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business 2013

May 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Fast Company - Bryan Cranston, Actor, Breaking Bad

Image Source: Fast Company

It’s that time again.  Time for Fast Company’s list of the “100 Most Creative People in Business 2013.”


Each year I find the list to be a fascinating mix of the known (and indeed reknowned) and the never-heard-of-but-wish-I-had.  The draw is in the details: what these individuals are doing (who knew there was such a thing as a “Futurist” at Ford Motor Company?), and how they are doing it (recognizing the change in the music industry and forging a deal to get musicians royalties for radio play on Clear Channel).

To give you a sampling, here are six of the members of this elite group, three women and three men, along with their words.  While I didn’t complete an exact tally, the list appears to be fairly evenly weighted with both sexes.  I’ve omitted the ranking for each, and instead listed them in alphabetical order, because, let’s be real, if you’re on this list, it doesn’t matter your number, it just matters that you’re there.

Diana Balmori, Principal, Balmori Associates

“The Architect Working Against the Tide,” who has addressed flooding issues in Memphis and Minneapolis.

“Landscape architecture,” says architect Diana Balmori, “is an agile tool kit for dealing with the complexity of the city.”

Next up?  Devise a way “to buttress New York for the next Hurricane Sandy.”

Bryan Cranston, Actor, Breaking Bad

In a wide-ranging, lengthy interview with Fast Company, award-winning actor Bryan Cranston talked “about how he helped create Walter [White on Breaking Bad] and how he’ll move beyond what may be the single best performance in the history of TV.”  When asked, “How do you and the writers keep things flowing as the show progresses?”, Cranston responded, in part:

It’s about the writing. I will stop in the writers room and say hello and bring donuts and just see how we’re doing. Things like that. Good writers will watch actors and pick up little innuendos, sensibility, tidbits that trigger something in their psyche and will start writing that in…

It’s the same relationships with actors, writers, directors–that triumvirate of creativity–we have to rely and trust each other to be able to get the final product. It’s no one dictator over the other. It’s truly a collaboration … when it’s working well.

Graham Hill, Founder, CEO, LifeEdited

In 2010, TreeHugger founder Graham Hill established “a socially conscious real estate startup,” LifeEdited. He designed a 420-square-foot, every-inch-used, more than fully-functioning apartment as his prototype  of minimal living – and yes, he lives there.

In reference to Sarah Simmons, the City Grit chef who prepared the food for a Fast Company-co-hosted dinner at Hill’s apartment (the other seven guests being the most creative folks who share a passion and concern about the future of cities), Fast Company writes, “This is how creativity in cities tends to happen: Con-straints become opportunities.”  As for Hill’s mission:

“One of the easiest ways to go green is to go small,” Hill says. “I want to show people that there’s an amazing modern green future, and make it easy for them to step into it.”…

“One of the areas where I think we’ve gone wrong as a society,” Hill says, “is that we’ve developed this thing where what you want to aim for is your own castle, gated away from everyone–and even within that castle, lots of space.”

Max Levchin, CEO Affirm, Board Member, Yahoo

Fast Company called Max Levchin the “Endless Idea Man,” having co-founded PayPal, he now starts companies out of R&D lab HVF, which stands for Hard Valuable Fun (love that).  Levchin has a seven-step plan for generating ideas for startups, which includes speaking with random creative people, asking questions, making lists and forgetting lists.  Steps number 3 and 4:

“Step 3.  I always carry around a device that runs Evernote. I have this massive notebook called IDEAS and another one called PERSONAL IDEAS and another one called CRAZY IDEAS.”

“Step 4. I make it my business to go back and reread the stack of ideas quite frequently. I’m up to 1000 notes or something crazy like that. When I get together with a friend to brainstorm ideas, I bring, as a conversation starter, like five ideas I have in a field they might be interested in talking about.”

Ruchi Sanghvi, Head of Operations, Dropbox

Ruchi Sanghvi, “The Optimizer,” was the first female engineer at Facebook.  Talk about cool (and financially rewarding).  Now she’s made a shift, broadening her expertise and influence at Dropbox, where she oversees recruiting, communications and marketing.  Of her her leap from coding to operations, Sanghvi says:

“Engineers love to optimize problems. Now I optimize logistical problems. I ask: ‘What’s the goal? What are our constraints? What is the optimal, elegant way to get to that goal within those constraints?’ I break it down in terms of a data funnel: ‘Where in the funnel are we inefficient?’ That analytical background really helps.”

Lara Setrakian, Founder, Syria Deeply

Correspondent Lara Setrakian founded website Syria Deeply after experiencing a lack of reliable, consistent information and reporting from the war-torn country.  Dubbed “The Crisis Explainer” by Fast Company, “Setrakian and her team add interactive timelines and maps, post news briefs on SoundCloud, arrange Google Hangouts for experts to compare notes, and invite a community of op-ed writers to give an up-to-the-second snapshot of the country.”  In her words:

“I want to redesign the user experience of news,” says Setrakian, who boasts that 50% of her audience visit the site again…

“Every time someone comes to Syria Deeply, I feel like they’re coming over to my house for dinner,” she says. “What will I serve them today?”


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