The act of creation is about making something happen, from nothing.
Just making things nicer isn’t creativity.
As Edward de Bono said, "There are lots of people calling themselves creative who are merely stylists."
Nicole Yershon is genuinely creative.
She makes stuff happen, often from nothing.
Nicole is Mike Yershon’s daughter.
Mike was one of the best media guys in London.
So Nic grew up in an atmosphere of operators, people who made stuff happen.
Not just people who sat around and complained about problems.
Nic used to run the traffic department at GGT.
The creative dept was full of stroppy, grumpy northerners.
But quietly and firmly Nic organised them like a sheepdog.
I reckon we got double the amount of high-quality work out because of the way Nic ran it.
I didn’t know at the time she was only 19.
Or that it was her first job out of school.
She obviously thought it was better to keep that quiet.
Anyway, after I left GGT, Nicole went to Ogilvy.
The brief she was given there was to "Bring Ogilvy into the 21st century".
She digitised traffic, so that workflow was hooked up to finance.
This led to massive time and cash savings.
She binned every single mechanical and proof, and 10,000 reels, going back thirty years.
She kept one digital copy of everything.
At the same time she was learning everything she could about the digital world.
Going to every lecture, seminar, and workshop she could find.
And she made a lot of contacts.
She comandeered a large conference room at Ogilvy.
And had it wired up as a ‘digital innovations lab’.
Then she started to contact people she’d met at the seminars.
Guys who sold great digital equipment, but didn’t have showrooms.
She said she could let them have space in Ogilvy, for free.
All they had to do was supply and maintain the equipment.
Then, between 12.00 and 2.00, they could use the space to demonstrate it.
This is an incredible deal that works for everyone.
Ogilvy get hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds worth of state-of-the art digital equipment, free.
Their partners get great showroom space, free.
And Nicole began linking the London lab to other similar labs in other Ogilvy agencies.
New York, Singapore, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, Beijing.
She could stream information to 22,000 desktops in 19 countries.
But Ogilvy didn’t have a budget for all this.
So what does a creative person do?
Nicole noticed Rory Sutherland, the Ogilvy Chairman, was doing lots of speeches.
She said, "Rory, do you get paid for these speeches?"
Rory said no.
Nic said, "If I can get a speaker’s fee for you, can I use the money to expand the digital labs?"
Rory said okay.
In Rory’s own words, she "pimps him out" to fund all R&D and innovation.
She created money where there wasn’t any money.
Just the way she created digital equipment where there wasn’t any.
Just the way she created offices where there weren’t any.
And an international digital-innovations network where there wasn’t one.
What have Ogilvy got from all this?
Well, for instance, a creative team were working on a global warming awareness brief.
They asked Nicole if it was possible to flood the online game ‘Second Life’.
To demonstrate the effects of the ice caps melting.
Nic called up some of her contacts and made it happen.
A great idea that couldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise.
Another creative team were working on Fanta.
They liked the idea that children can hear mosquitoes but adults can’t.
They wondered if it was possible to make an app for iPhones like that.
So that pupils in class could contact each other without the teacher hearing.
That won a Cannes award because Nic made it happen.
Another idea was interactive posters for Castrol.
As your car passed a camera, it would photograph your number plate.
This would automatically be flashed to the DVLA in Swansea.
They’d instantaneously return the relevant information.
And a poster, at the garage in front of you, would light up with your number plate, and what sort of oil you should buy.
But for me, whether these are great ideas or not isn’t even the point.
The point is, that real creativity is making this whole thing happen from nothing.
No waiting for permission.
As Winston Churchill said, "We have no money, we shall have to think."